Asia's turn came on Monday, as the United Nations Security Council appointed Ban Ki-Moon, foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, to succeed Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Both men are soft-spoken, in the language of gentle diplomacy that has been their hallmark.
Short of an unforeseen catastrophe, Ban has won unprecedented support from the five permanent members of the Security Council.
At the helm of the world organization for almost 10 years, the soft-spoken Annan has overseen an expansion of the secretary-general's role to become "the world's top diplomat."
Ban's competence shone in his lead in the polls of the Security Council members all through the race for the secretary-general's post.
Asia has changed dramatically in many ways since U Thant served as secretary-general from 1961 to 1971.
Ban's appointment is particularly meaningful coming shortly after the nuclear test in North Korea. His expertise and experience in dealing with the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula are a real asset.
The case for him to become the new UN Secretary-General is founded on his skills as a consummate mediator and world-class administrator.
He has won good words from the outgoing Annan. Showing the highest respect for Ban, Annan vowed to do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition.
Ban's public profile and oratory have hidden depths waiting to be displayed.
The task of the new Secretary-General will not be easy in this world racked by violent divisions surpassing anything witnessed since the organization was created "to end the scourge of war."
The UN needs a strong, insightful leader who can win space for independent action, build new capacity for the world organization, and exercise leadership on the great issues of humanity.
In his campaign for the post, Ban pledged to play a more visible role in the Middle East and other regional conflicts if elected. He also made clear that he would travel extensively and appoint a deputy to handle some of the everyday management.
From his 36-year career, Ban has gained the necessary depth of experience for the post of secretary-general. His Harvard diploma and fluent command of English, German, French and Japanese have given him a shot in the arm in his diplomatic career.
With a low-key style, moderate and steady, Ban has always hidden his light under a bushel in handling diplomatic issues, part of the East Asian philosophy.
Ban has exhibited skill in compromise and consensus-building, a quality that may reduce unnecessary conflicts in the world organization.
He has two months to make the preparations to lead the largest organization in the world.
In March 2005, his predecessor launched a major reform effort that was to be the capstone of his tenure. The world will see whether Ban will have the stamina to promote the reform.
He will set out on a demanding journey.
(China Daily October 11, 2006)