Televisions had barely dimmed from showing Hong Kong's gala transfer to Chinese rule last July 1 when Asians were hurled into the real event of 1997.

On the other side of Southeast Asia, Thailand's government abandoned a six-month defense of its currency against speculators, sending the baht into a free fall.On July 2, 1997, the Asian Crisis had begun.

A year later, the upheaval shows no letup. Asian nations are in recession or heading there, and the pain is being felt worldwide.

Thailand's move inspired foreign investors, whose search for fast profits had fed an Asian economic boom, to pull money out of the country - fast.

The phenomenon repeated itself regionwide. Currencies crashed. Stock markets followed. Banks were left holding piles of bad loans. Exports dried up as markets - mostly other Asian countries - withered.

Quick fixes have failed. The first epidemic of the globalized economic age has consistently outraced traditional cures prescribed by the designated doctor, the International Monetary Fund.

Millions of people have lost their jobs and hundreds of millions are poorer. Corporations that were expanding two years ago are bankrupt, delaying the day when the unemployed will be rehired.

The governments of Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia, under IMF-supervised bailouts totaling $120 billion, have fallen. The removal of Indonesian President Suharto - Asia's longest-serving leader - after bloody riots symbolized the destruction of the old order.

Now, contrary to initial hopes that the crisis would be short, few believe in a turnaround in the next three years.

"I think the crisis has already spread beyond Asia," analyst Mir-on Mushkat said.

"It has not induced a recession-like condition anywhere else yet," said Mushkat, vice chairman of Indocam Asia Asset Management in Hong Kong. "But exports from the U.S. and Europe are beginning to suffer and that will continue. Eventually, there could be rising manufacturing unemployment there."

The U.S. trade deficit soared to a record $14.5 billion in April as Asians bought less of everything American, from airplanes to farm products.

But for now, bigger worries lie in the outlook for Japan and China.