Overview of the Project
The Transpacific Project is focused on the history and contemporary significance of transpacific social, cultural, economic and political relations. These transoceanic relations have involved trade, migration, cultural and ecological exchange, international cooperation and conflict as well as many other forms of social interaction. An increasing variety and quantity of transpacific relations have taken place since humans first migrated and settled in the Pacific Basin many thousands of years ago. In many respects, these relations have determined the course of human history and are now shaping the destiny of humanity.
The Transpacific Project is a knowledge integration and dissemination project. It is engaged in the collection, integration and dissemination of knowledge about the nature and significance of the many forms of social relations that have occurred and are taking place today between the peoples, cultures and societies of the Pacific Basin.
This website is both a depository for the knowledge that is being collected and integrated by the Transpacific Project and an Internet platform for disseminating this knowledge to a global audience. One of the main goals of the project is to make the increasing body of knowledge about the evolution and contemporary importance of transpacific relations available to both the scientific community and the interested public.
The Geographic and Interdisciplinary Scope of the Project
Transoceanic social relations in the Pacific Basin have evolved with increasing frequency, diversity, intensity and complexity since the prehistoric era. Certain definite patterns can be observed in this evolutionary process, particularly increasing intercultural communications, ecological transformation, diversification of trade, cultural and ecological hybridization, international cooperation and economic integration.
The geographic scope of this project encompasses the entire Pacific Basin, which includes all the continents bordering the Pacific Ocean as well as all the islands located within this immense ocean. A countless number and diversity of transoceanic social relations link the peoples, cultures, societies, political territories and ecological sytems within this extensive geographic area.
The Pacific Basin encompasses many regions (e.g., East Asia, Southeast Asia, North Asia, Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Oceania, North America, Central America, South America, etc,); five continents (Asia, Australia, North America, South America and Antarctica) and tens of thousands of islands within the Pacific Ocean. Historically, the Pacific Ocean has provided the main avenue for travel, migration, trade and other forms of transoceanic social relations between the peoples living within the Pacific Basin, and it continues to be an important avenue today for a broad range of social interaction, despite the increasing importance of transpacific air travel and global satellite telecommunications.
The integration of knowledge about the nature and significance of transpacific social relations involves synthesizing a vast amount of information and many different conceptual perspectives and disciplines of knowledge. The integration of knowledge on this subject involves using a holistic and interdisciplinary approach that combines and weaves together the theories, concepts and facts produced by a wide variety of scientific and academic disciplines in countries literally around the world. (To find more information on knowledge integration click here).
The need for knowledge integration on complex subjects such as transpacific relations has grown dramatically with the unprecedented expansion of knowledge and increasing specialization in the development of knowledge that have occurred over the last century. As one source on knowledge integration notes:
The ironic and historically unprecedented result of our specialist-driven success is that our ability to solve many problems no longer hinges so much on discovering new knowledge, but on making use of the knowledge we already have. Our new challenge is to start weaving knowledge back together again – weaving it into forms not only more organized, accurate and accessible, but also into forms that are more useful for solving the difficult problems we face (see the source of this quote at Idiagram.com).
By collecting and integrating the expanding and diversifying body of knowledge about the origins, nature, evolution and contemporary significance of transpacific relations, this project seeks to foster greater recognition, understanding and appreciation of the tremendously important role played by these relations in human history and contemporary world affairs.
The Transpacific Project’s holistic conceptual framework is:(a) interdisciplinary, (b) inter-regional, (c) historical, and (d) global. This conceptual framework enables us to encompass, identify, analyze, compare, integrate and evaluate the diversity of social relations that have historically connected and currently connect the peoples, cultures, economies, societies, states and ecosystems of the Pacific Basin.
There is much to be learned from this undertaking and it is expected that many valuable insights into the history and development of humanity, the nature and dynamics of contemporary world affairs, intercultural communications, cultural hybridity and long term trends in socio-cultural, economic and political development will be derived from this ongoing project.
The Genealogy of Transpacific Relations
The rapidly growing body of genetic research on the ancestry of contemporary humanity has provided conclusive proof that there are no biological races in the human species and that all the peoples of the Pacific Basin (and the world) are related genetically as a result of their common ancestry.
This increasing body of genetic research has revealed all members of the human species share extremely close genetic characteristics and an ancient history of common ancestry. The research also reveals there has been on-going gene exchange between the members of the human species as they have migrated to the different geographic regions of the Earth — the “globalization” of the planet by humans.
The common ancestors of all the people living in the Pacific Basin today can be identified because their lineages have survived in the DNA that has been passed down nearly unaltered from one generation to the next over thousands of years. These common ancestors have been identified through genetic research on a growing body of fossil DNA and “in vivo” DNA provided by the donation of blood samples from a large number of people in different parts of the world. The research indicates that modern humans arose in sub-Saharan Africa and began migrating out of Africa about 55,000 – 75,000 years ago, first to the Near East, from there to Europe and southern Asia, and then from the Asian mainland to Australia, the Pacific Islands and the Americas.
All of the people living today in the Pacific Basin have in their DNA the story of their ancient ancestors’ prehistoric migrations into and across the Pacific Basin. The following illustration provides a graphic overview of the existing knowledge about the genetic ancestry and migratory history of humanity. The ancestry and migratory history of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Basin are displayed in this illustration (click on the map below to enlarge it). As more information becomes available through increasing genetic research, we will know more about the common ancestry, prehistoric migrations of people across the Pacific Basin and the early history of transpacific relations. The letter codes in the boxes on the map below represent the major mitochondrial DNA haplogroups (lineages) of humanity’s family tree. For more information on this subject click here.
Geopolitical Scope of the Project
As indicated above, the history of transpacific relations has taken place over a vast multi-regional geographic area that includes the continents bordering the Pacific Ocean and the tens of thousands of islands in this ocean. It is a geographic area that encompasses almost half the surface of the planet.
The many societies that exist in this multi regional area produce today more than 60 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product and contain more than a third of the world’s population. This extremely important part of the world contains billions of human beings, a rich diversity of cultures, and more than 50 contemporary states and political territories (which are listed below).
English is the Transpacific Lingua Franca
There are thousands of languages spoken in the Pacific Basin, but the three languages spoken by the largest number of people are Chinese, English and Spanish (see the graph below). English is spreading rapidly in most parts of the Pacific Basin due to its increasing use in international trade and as a lingua franca “between persons who share neither a common native tongue, nor a common (national) culture, and for whom English is the chosen foreign language” (Firth, A. 1996. “The discursive accomplishment of normality: On ‘lingua franca’ English and conversation analysis,” Journal of Pragmatics, no 26:240).
The acculturation and nativization of English in the Pacific Basin has produced many nativized or derivative Englishes, including American English, Australian English, Chinese English, Hong Kong English, Indian English, Japanese English, Malaysian English, Mexican English, Philippine English, Samoan English, Singapore English, etc. (For more information on this subject click here to link to the “History of English” website) But as one important source on the use of English as a lingua franca indicates: ”It is an indisputable fact that in the 21st century English has become a global lingua franca with non-native speakers of the language outnumbering its native speakers” (For more information on this subject, click here)
- The inner circle is where English is the first language of the majority of people: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA , etc.
- The outer circle is where English is an official language in a multilingual setting: Hong Kong, India, Philippines, Singapore, etc
- The expanding circle is where English is being taught to large numbers of people as an international language: China, Japan, Korea, the Russian Federation, Indonesia, etc
The following map of the West Pacific Islands reveals why the Pacific Ocean should be perceived as a “sea of islands” rather than a vast expanse of water between the continents of Asia, Australia and the Americas. Many of the islands within the Pacific Ocean are located south of the equator such as the islands of New Guinea, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, French Polynesia, etc. And the Indonesian archipelago contains over 17,500 islands which straddle the equator.
Thousands of islands are located north of the equator, including the islands of Hawai’i, Taiwan, Japan, the 300 plus Aleutian Islands, the more than 7,000 islands of the Philippines etc. The exact total number of islands in the Pacific Ocean cannot be given since there are too many variables (disagreement over what is an island, over the specific boundaries of the Pacific, etc). There are between 25,000 to 30,000 islands, but a large number of the smallest islands are uninhabited.
The Pacific Ocean is a major contributor to the world economy and particularly to those nations it directly touches. It provides low-cost sea transportation between the countries around it and within it as well as extensive fishing grounds, offshore oil and gas fields, minerals, and sand and gravel for construction. A majority of the world’s fish catch comes from the Pacific Ocean. And the exploitation of offshore oil and gas reserves is an ever-increasing source of energy for Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, China, Peru and the USA.
The Polynesian Triangle
The map below of the Polynesian Triangle demonstrates how the Pacific Ocean contains an extensive network of interconnected island societies. These island societies have been settled by peoples with a common cultural and genetic ancestry who have maintained transpacific social relations over a long period of time.
The 10 billion-square-mile Polynesian Triangle extends from the Hawaiian islands in its northern tip to Aotearoa (New Zealand) in its southwest corner and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in its southeastern corner. It is so large it equals the size of Europe and Asia combined. The islands within this huge triangle and some outside it were settled and connected by Polynesian explorers and voyagers who were master navigators and sailors.
For the Polynesians, the Pacific Ocean served as a “super highway”, which made it possible for them to travel great distances and create the most geographically extensive cultural nation in world history. Did they reach the shores of the Americas and establish contact with the indigenous peoples of North and South America before European explorers and colonizers “discovered” the Americas? This is one of the many controversial questions which this project addresses.
This website presents information in a variety of formats, including video clips. To view a brief but very informative video clip (extracted from PBS documentary “Wayfinders: a Pacific Odyssey”) about Polynesian seafaring and the settlement of the Pacific Islands click here. To view another video (from History. Com, entitled Polynesian Discovery, Part I) which examines the possibility that the Polynesians had contact with the Americas before the Europeans arrived there, click here.
The Importance of Transpacific Trade
Trade has been the most important form of social relations that has connected the peoples of the Pacific Basin since humans first migrated into and settled this vast area of the earth. In more recent times, the following map shows the Pacific Basin was an integral part of the world trading system that was established by the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires in the 16th-18th centuries. (Click on map to enlarge it)
The illustration below reveals the contemporary importance of transpacific trade. Note that transpacific trade is more than three times greater than transatlantic trade and one and a half times greater than Asia-Europe trade.
Over the past two decades, there has been a significant increase in free trade agreements (FTAs) and international investments, which have expanded the economic relations and connections between the Americas and Asia. In addition to bilateral free trade agreements between individual Asian and American countries there is increasing regional and inter-regional economic integration within the Pacific Basin. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, for example, is an association of 21 Pacific Basin countries that seeks to promote inter-regional trade as well as economic and technical cooperation within the so-called Asia-Pacific region.
The APEC member economies collectively account for more than half of the world’s real GDP in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) and over 44 percent of total world trade. The APEC member countries developed a framework in Osaka, Japan in 1995, which focuses APEC’s activities on three key areas of international cooperation: (1) trade and investment liberalization; (2) business facilitation, and (3) economic and technical cooperation. (Click here to link to the APEC website)
Nine APEC members are currently negotiating a free trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). APEC supports this effort and its leaders have stated that the TPP is one possible building block, along with other regional undertakings, for achieving a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. APEC’s stated goal is the economic integration of the Asia-Pacific area.
The TPP free trade agreement is being negotiated by the governmental representatives of nine APEC countries – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Viet Nam and the United States of America. Other APEC members such as Canada, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan have also expressed interest in joining the TPP negotiations, which would create one of the largest FTAs in the world. (Click here to link to more information on the TPP)
Another structure for increasing collaboration between Asia and the Americas is the intergovernmental Forum for East Asia – Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC), which notably does not include the United States and Canada. This intergovernmental forum of 34 countries from East Asia and Latin America was established in 1999 to maintain an official and regular dialog between the governments and economies of these two regions. The stated objective of FEALAC is to promote better understanding and coordination between the two regions so as to achieve more effective and fruitful relations and closer cooperation.
FEALAC’s official website provides a considerable amount of information on this important transpacific intergovernmental forum. It can be accessed at http://www.fealac.org/
Trade between East Asia and Latin America has increased dramatically in the last decade or so as the graph below reveals. In fact, bilateral trade between certain East Asian and Latin American countries has increased by almost 400 percent since the 1990s (for example, click here to see a paper written by Wan-Ho Kim on Korea’s trading relations with Chile).
Transpacific Business Organizations
The members of PBEC come from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Ecuador, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, The Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, and the United States of America. PBEC’s office is located in Hong Kong. The Council claims it provides:
- Advocacy and Influence
- Exchange of Knowledge and
- Policy Development
According to the Chairman of the PBEC, Wilfred Wong Ying Wai, “because of the growing wealth, power and influence of the Pacific region, PBEC is taking on a more active engagement of corporations in Asia and Latin America, ensuring that their viewpoints are discussed and heard” (Click here to link to the website of PBEC). The PBEC website states that this organization was the brainchild of the Australia-Japan/Japan-Australia Business Cooperation Committee, and that many of the bilateral arrangements between and among countries of the Asia-Pacific gained their impetus through PBEC.
Over the decades, PBEC has attracted the attention and participation of the region’s senior business leaders and government officials. According to the PBEC website: “Corporate CEOs and heads of state and government have participated in PBEC’s activities, drawn by the frank exchanges, in-depth discussions, and the lasting friendships they forge.” It also states that: “The ability to speak frankly and directly without any fear of political repercussions has made PBEC the leading Independent Voice of Business in the Pacific, respected for its integrity and credibility.
The Pacific Basin and the Distribution of World Gross Domestic Product
The historical data in the following graph was compiled by Angus Maddison (6 December 1926 – 24 April 2010), who was a British economist and a world scholar on quantitative macroeconomic history, including the measurement and analysis of economic growth and development. He was Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Groningen.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the economic size of a country was directly proportional to the size of its population. Since China and India relied mostly on rice cultivation, had the most productive forms of non-mechanized agriculture, and developed extensive irrigation systems, they supported the world’s largest populations and correspondingly the largest economies, measured today in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Until the early 19th century, they jointly accounted for approximately 50% of the world’s GDP.
In the 19th century, the mechanization of production brought about by the Industrial Revolution ended the previous relationship between population size and economic output. Certain European countries and their former colonies (e.g. the United States), which previously produced a modest share of the global GDP, became the world’s largest economies through both industrialization and imperialism.
But in the late 20th century a rebalancing of the world’s GDP began to take place as China and India undertook their own industrialization and expanded their trade with the rest of the world. As a result they are now producing an increasing share of the world’s GDP, which is more in line with the size of their populations. (To see the source of this information, click here)
The following graph shows the GDP growth rate of the major economies that trade in the Pacific Basin (the data is for the fourth quarter of 2011). Note that China and India have the highest GDP growth rates.
Click here to see the source of this information at the website of Trading Economics.Com
The other pages of this website (which can be accessed in the upper left hand column of this webpage by clicking here) provide interdisciplinary information on the various forms of transpacific relations, their origins, evolution and their influence on the peoples, cultures, societies, economies, politics and ecosystems of the Pacific Basin as well as on human history and contemporary world affairs in general. New information will continue to be added to this website as it is expanded and improved. Most of the pages are now in a very early stage of development and they will be improved as more information in the form of text, images and video clips is added to them.
For the time being, English is the only language used on this website. As mentioned above, it is the international lingua franca increasingly used by the peoples of the Pacific Basin to communicate with each other.(Click here to see more information on the use of English as an international lingua franca). However, with time and greater resources we hope to add other languages, particularly Mandarin Chinese (Pǔtōnghuà), Spanish (Español) and Japanese (Nihongo) which are also used by many people in the Pacific Basin to communicate with each other (as the following chart suggests).
Significantly, all ten of the languages in the chart above are spoken in the Pacific Basin and all of them have been the official language of at least one state or colonial territory in this part of the world. The extent of multi-lingual diversity in the Pacific Basin does not exist any where else in the world and reflects the unparalleled history of international relations and the global importance of the Pacific Basin in human history and contemporary world affairs.
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