02/22/2013 04:07 pm ET

What You Need to Know About the "Asian century"

There is no question that Asia will become ever more important in the world. Whether you view it as a blessing or a disaster, the one thing that the so-called "Asian century" shouldn't be is a surprise.

People have been talking about the rise of Asia for years. The idea of the coming Asian century isn't new, in fact, it's well over a century old.

Today the world holds its breath when North Korea tests nuclear weapons. But the same thing happened when China and Japan first went to war over a hunded years ago. The problem then wasn't WMDs, it was money. The big banks in Europe and America already had huge investments in Asia, and war could spell massive financial losses for some, and equally large gains for others.

A full generation before the era of Downton Abbey, globalization was already a fact of life. Even then, Asia was just too big to ignore, but it was a two sided coin. Banks and businessmen knew that Asia had enormous economic potential, but others were less thrilled about the prospect of Asian migrants bringing disease and undercutting local wages.

For the full article see "Asia and the Old World Order" in this month's issue of History Today.