By the time the Olympics ended, Beijing had clearly won the all-around gold. As a Chinese-born academic who was skeptical about the merits of hosting an extravagant sporting event in a country where 400 million people live on less than $2 a day, I’ll grudgingly admit that the Chinese government once again showed that when the Communist Party mobilizes the state’s resources, it can accomplish feats that are unimaginable in democracies. Were the Olympics worth the $43 billion bill? For the party, the answer is yes. The Games have boosted its popularity among the Chinese people, who are proud of their country and the spectacular performance of their athletes — especially their 51 gold medals.
What the Olympics won’t do is dramatically change China’s political future. The Games strengthened the party’s rule, leaving it under less pressure to reform. Beyond China’s A+ athletic performance, here’s my balance sheet.