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China's Olympian Quest

This article was originally published in SRA

Executive Summary

In front of the National Museum of China in Beijing there is a large billboard with a digital clock. Every time a foreign visitor passes the clock, he can measure the days, hours and minutes to the start of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Meanwhile, not far away on another corner of the square is a large portrait of the late Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung). Both displays face onto Tiananmen Square, the site in 1989 of a massive student demonstration about political and economic reform which ended in tragedy. These two contrasting images illustrate the changes that are taking place in modern China. On the one hand, the clock represents one vision of the future. It is a future of investment, prosperity and international collaboration. On the other hand, the portrait of Mao Zedong represents one particularly difficult period in China's long history.

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