China vs. the USA: Olympic muscle and economic clout

It’s interesting to see the U.S. competing head-to-head with China for the top of the Olympic medal standings.  As Andrew Weber points out in USA Today, for decades this close competition was instead the exclusive battle of the U.S. vs. the USSR.

But times have changed, and nothing confirms more palpably for the American people that China is on the rise as a world power than it’s dominance in the 2012 Olympics.

Weber suggests that the U.S. will eventually gather the most medals at the London games, but until the past few days, China was leading in the overall standings.

China’s emergance as a dominant Olympic power is a tangible extension of the nation’s expanding economic power.  With a massive industrial presence on the world stage, including a steel industry that dwarfs any other nation, and a trade surplus over the United States that hit $295 billion last year, there can be little doubt that the People’s Republic is a force to be reckoned with.

This doesn’t necessarily sit well with the American public.  Beijing is home to a repressive regime that utilizes whatever means necessary to hold on to power.  And China’s leadership employs a host of predatory trade practices to ensure that it undercuts U.S. manufacturers.

When asked about China’s persistent trade violations in a recent poll conducted by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), U.S. voters said they emphatically support tough action on Beijing’s cheating on currency and other trade obligations.

More significantly, a majority of voters (56 percent) no longer see the U.S. as having the world’s strongest economy.  A plurality of those surveyed (31%) thought China now holds the top economic spot.

Seeing China at the top of the Olympic medal count can only confirm for many that the People’s Republic is the world’s new superpower.  But America’s democratic system is worth fighting for, and 88 percent of voters believe that it’s possible for America to have the strongest economy.  In fact, 92 percent believe that it is important for the U.S. to regain that position.

The U.S. currently leads in the Olympic medal standings.  But it’s a tight race, and one that looks likely to prefigure a lengthy battle on the world stage between the U.S. and China.

Read more about U.S. voter attitudes toward China and the economy.

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