Each time I visit China I am struck by the hesitation. The world watches in awe and, if truth be told, with considerable apprehension, as China reclaims a place as a great power. Yet those steering the country’s rise betray a strange ambivalence.
In Beijing, pride jostles with insecurity; studied diffidence sits alongside brisk self-confidence. Insistence that others, particularly the US, should be properly respectful of China’s new status co-exists with a nervous inwardness.
The Olympics, it has been said many times, taught China more about the world and the world more about China. That is probably true. Yet there is little sign that the success of the games will recast Beijing’s global outlook. China has still to decide what sort of power it wants to be. This matters greatly to the rest of us.