For China, hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics was a chance to prove it could hold its own among the great global powers. When the world tunes in for the opening ceremonies of the 2022 Winter Olympics on Feb. 4, a very different China will be in the spotlight.
In 2008 the country had just surpassed Germany to become the world’s third-biggest economy. Its gross domestic product still trailed Japan’s and was only one-third the size of the U.S. economy. Today, China’s GDP is three times larger than Japan’s and steadily closing on the No. 1 spot. If Chinese President Xi Jinping is able to deliver on growth-boosting reforms, and U.S. President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda stumbles, China could overtake the U.S. as soon as 2031, according to forecasts by Bloomberg Economics.
“In 2008, China was desperate to make its case to the world that it belonged on the global stage as an equal,” says Xu Guoqi, a professor of history at the University of Hong Kong and author of Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008. “The message now is China is a strong power. Deal with it.”
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