After the Games, what’s next for China?

Published 2:41 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

For 16 days, the world watched as results came in daily — Michael Phelps accomplished a record-setting gold medal streak, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team battled with China to come away with a silver medal, and Fourth District native LaShawn Merritt overtook the reigning Olympic champion to win gold in the 400-meter race.

There is intensity and excitement as we await the answer to the question — “what will the result be?”

This one question gives the Olympic Games its unique ability to capture the attention of avid sports fans and casual viewers alike.

But there is another result that the world is still waiting for — what’s next for China? China captured the world’s attention as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Many individuals have asked the question of whether or not China was the “right choice” to host the 2008 Olympic Games given its record on a global scale.

The Olympic Games present a unique opportunity for China, and what China shows the world after the Olympics will be the real lesson from the 2008 Games.

China is showing all the signs of becoming the world’s next superpower.

It is continuing to gain economic strength — its economy grew by nearly 12 percent in 2007, and is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 10 percent for the next few years.

The impact of the Olympic Games is sure to continue to provide China economic growth.

The Chinese are investing heavily in creating a military to match their economic muscle. They continue to lead the world in advanced infrastructure.

But with such rapid development comes significant responsibility.

Unfortunately, China’s lack of transparency in military, trade and human rights matters has become a concerning factor for the U.S. and for the world.

As founder and chairman of the Congressional China Caucus, I make it a priority to study China’s role in this area. China’s intentions surrounding its military buildup remain vague following its anti-satellite test last year, repeated cyber attacks on government Web sites originating from China, and its continued resistance to fully publishing its military budget.

China has yet to take concrete action to protect intellectual property rights from the U.S. — the Chinese steal more of our intellectual property than any other nation in the world with an estimated $244 million in losses from piracy in China in 2005, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

China has been the source of many food, drug and product safety issues, as a number of tainted products from China have found their way to the U.S., including pet food, toothpaste and children’s toys containing lead paint.

China’s human rights policy and its lack of religious freedom have drawn sharp criticism from individual citizens, organizations and global leaders alike.

The Olympic Games have given China a chance to conduct itself as a government that seeks transparency and will hold itself accountable.

The resulting impact of the Olympic Games on China could be positive or negative, and while the Olympic cameras have stopped rolling, the world is still watching to see what direction China will decide to move in.

Will China assume a stance of secretiveness, regional dominance and competitive hostility?

Or can we expect greater openness, cooperation and human rights awareness?

Now that China has the world’s attention, what will it do with it?

Is China ready to accept the responsibility and diplomatic obligation of being on the world stage?

Do they see themselves as rival or partner in this new century?

Only China can answer those questions. Regardless of whether China was the “right choice” to host the 2008 Olympic Games, it is now up to them to make the most of the opportunity that has been given to them. Just as we waited to see if the Olympic athletes would capitalize on their training, exercise and preparation, we now wait to see if China will capitalize positively on its opportunity to grow into a respected member on the world stage.