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America’s Sputnik Moment in Beijing

NEW YORK – August 8, 2008, may someday be remembered as the first day of the post-American era. Or it could be remembered as another “Sputnik moment,” when, as with the Soviet foray into outer space in 1957, the American people realized that the country had lost its footing and decided it was time for the United States to get its act together.

There was no mistaking the power and symbolism of the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympic Games on August 8. That multimedia spectacular did far more than trace China’s 5,000-year history; it was a statement that China is a major civilization that demands and deserves its rightful place in the global hierarchy.