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The Production Number Heard 'Round the World

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) The least happy person in the world this morning is the person in charge of planning the Olympic opening ceremony for Vancouver in 2010. After what we saw in Beijing last night, that job became about as thankless as following your young classmate Judy Garland in the school talent show or being commissioned to paint the ceiling of the church next door to the Sistine Chapel.

But it's not just the production designers of every future Olympics who are feeling hopeless today. The politicians, captains of industry and generals of those countries--of every country--are also in shock. They know last night's spectacle kicked off more than a sporting event; it feels like we just saw the opening act of the Chinese Century.

Now we understand why China was so determined to get these games, and why they have worked with such cold resolve for so long to prepare for them. They knew if the world would give them its full attention for just a moment, they could shatter forever China's image as a sleeping dragon. In one evening, for an estimated four BILLION viewers, they made laughable any notion of China as the merely the origin of cheap toys, bad action movies and take-out food.

Beijing rolled out a display of creativity, technical prowess, discipline, cultural pride and depth of history like it was a military parade. More than 15,000 performers dancing with flawless precision laid bare the power of population. We are a quarter of the globe's people, China said, watch us move as one. The result was beautiful, graceful, exhilarating and infinitely moving (heck, even I felt the pride of being Chinese), but it was also intimidating. And purposefully so.

The message China has been waiting so patiently to deliver was a clear as a gong and as blinding as a sky lit by colored fire from horizon to horizon: We are ready to assume our place at the top of the world order. Let the games begin.

By Steve Hendrix |  August 9, 2008; 9:12 AM ET
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Snore.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 10:00 AM

Are you sure you aren't a PR rep for the Chinese government? Also, you're completely missing the fact that they're southern neighbor is the true force to be reckoned with in this century. India will overtake China in population within a few years and has an economy that is booming much more significantly due the the influx of serious high-tech money. They just don't have the military-industrial complex of the totalitarian Chinese regime.

You need look no further than any non-clearance government tech contract to realize that India is exporting engineering and computer talent at a rate about 5x-10x more than our universities can produce. Beyond that, the standard of living has increased so drastically in the past few years that it no longer makes sense for tech workers to emigrate to western Europe or the US anymore.

Posted by: Leesburger | August 11, 2008 12:07 PM

Hey France:

Smash This !!!

Posted by: Men's 400 Relay Team | August 11, 2008 2:50 PM

"Also, you're completely missing the fact that they're southern neighbor is the true force to be reckoned with in this century. India will overtake China in population within a few years and has an economy that is booming much more significantly due the the influx of serious high-tech money. They just don't have the military-industrial complex of the totalitarian Chinese regime."

Hunh? China has a just under 10% GDP growth rate, ranked 15th. India has an 8% GDP growth rate, ranked 26th. Where are your facts that India is "booming much more significantly"?

India may not have a military industrial complex on par with China's, but they do invest a lot there. No country obtains nuclear weapons without some investment. Regardless, both Japan and Germany have long been listed in the top 5 economies by nominal GDP without a grand military due to restrictions placed on them after WWII. Many would argue that those restrictions have been a boon to their economies over the post war years.

India's nominal GDP is ranked 12th (World Bank, IMF, CIA Factbook), and is about one third that of what China's current GDP is. Even if India improved it's growth rate to 10% then it would take 12 years for India's GDP to match China's current GDP. Of course, India only catches up to China if China's economy doesn't grow 12 straight years. Not likely.

China faces a similar problem with catching the US. (Translation, it would take India roughly a quarter of a century or 12 years twice to catch up to the US in GDP assuming the US economy does not grow at all and India's economy grows faster than it currently is: that dispels the myth that this is Inida's century. It is China's and the US's.) At 10% growth, the US only needs to grow about 3.5% annually to keep the gap for a decade (the ratio would change, however). After that, all those growth numbers would change.

It is no coincidence that the earliest that India will have a shot at hosting the olympics is 2020, or 12 years after Beijing has. However, I wouldn't be too confident that India will get the 2020 games. The 2016 games will be in either Tokyo, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, and Madrid. The edge goes to Chicago and Rio since they are on different continents from hosts of the 2008 and 2012 games. If Rio wins, then you can forget about it. A North American city (Toronto, Boston, or the twin cities in Minnesota) will host. And even if Chicago wins the right to host in 2016, I think the committee will want to give the games to the muslim nation of Turkey (Istanbul) over India (Delhi). Turkey has applied 4 times previously, so they have more experience.

Okay, I'll end my rant.

Posted by: Terry | August 11, 2008 4:40 PM

Terry, GDP isn't everything. The makeup of the growth is also important. The US's GDP has a very small percentage due to exports of manufactured goods, yet it still reigns despite the doom and gloom predictions over the past 25 years as the economy shifted to a services-orientation. Is China's huge GDP fueled by cheap labor and cheap exports sustainable when the new wealth makes labor and manufacturing more expensive? Or does that mean that the next cheap-labor location will then supplant the growth China is now experiencing. First Japan, then Korea, now China, next maybe Indonesia (if they can experience the political stability required for long-term investment)?

In a global economy with portable technology, high tech people with a strong grasp of business are vastly more important than high tech exports. The people required to create the ideas are far more valuable than the cheap labor to produce it in tangible form. China has been growing in that realm, but it remains to be seem whether they can commoditize intelligence effectively and transition their economy into wealth production through intelligence as opposed to cheap labor.

As to the location of the Olympics, I don't really care, since it's just an exercise is bribery and corruption as has been made abundantly clear over the years.

Posted by: Leesburger | August 11, 2008 6:26 PM

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