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China, the Olympics, and Global Leadership

The whole world, it seems, views China as the next great global power. A trip to Beijing does little to dispel that impression. Out of the welter of dust, noise, welders’ sparks, flotillas of cement mixers and construction cranes, the setting for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games is taking shape. A visitor feels inconsequential in the chaotic vastness of this epic undertaking.

But looking down on the scene from the half-finished Morgan Centre, the luxury apartment complex (where annual rents are $800,000) and seven-star hotel that is arising beside the Olympic site, one is awestruck not only by the project’s grandeur, but by its design daring. Below, like some latticed popover, is the Herzog & de Meuron-designed “birds nest” Olympic Stadium. Beside it is the stunning “water cube,” or Aquatics Center, of Chinese/Australian design.