Olympics Mark China’s Second Coming
Muhammad Cohen writes in the Asia Times:
Under Zhu Rongji, China must have seemed like a puppy dog eager to please the West. It provided Western companies with a platform for investing in Asia and, as a WTO member – it formally acceded at the end of 2001 – accepted imports on much fairer terms. It was in the midst of that quantum leap in enthusiasm about China that Beijing was awarded the Olympics, in July 2001. At the time, China even promised to improve its human-rights performance in the spirit of the Olympics.
But the modern Olympic spirit is all about money, a good fit with today’s China. Surging foreign investment over the past decade has made China the world’s factory floor, a central player in the global economy (reducing Hong Kong to a footnote), rather than the emerging sideshow it was in 1997 and even 2001. Today, China has the world’s leading trade surplus and its largest foreign exchange reserves, including the world’s biggest horde of US Treasury securities.
Rather than a coming-out party, the Olympics signal a coming-in party for the house that Mao built as a full-fledged member of the global establishment that dismissed it as an interloper in 1997. Don’t expect anyone to be hard on a new club member and business partner for occupying Tibet or other human-rights shortcomings. Largely thanks to the accident of the economic crisis and the policies of Zhu Rongji, the puppy dog of 2001 has grown into a 70 kilogram pit bull that no one dares cross.