Like so many of you, I was transfixed by this summer’s Olympic Games from so many angles. Not the least of these was China’s coming out party. Having been there several times over the past year, I was truly dazzled by the amazing transformation of Beijing and Shangri since I was last there in 1990.
But as an observer of the games themselves I was struck by the overhyped rivalry drummed up by the media between China and the United States for gold medals. It took me immediately back a few decades to the Cold War when the Olympic jousting was between the U.S.S.R. and U.S.
But look at the profound difference in the 21st century rivalry. Where the ’60s rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States was focused on military might, today’s could be better described as economic competition in the global economy. How quickly we have seen the dissolution of the Iron Curtain and its ambitions of military might (despite recent rumblings in Georgia) and the rapid rise of economic competition.
This also has me thinking of the tradeoffs in our two systems. In China, capitalism is carefully steered by a strong central government that from some perspectives has too strong a hand as evidenced by the absence of strong environmental policies, continuing issues with human rights, working conditions and especially with freedom of speech as we know it. Read the rest of this entry »