China hopes that its Olympic team will do the country proud—but many Chinese are openly rooting for US athletes. Why the love? Francesco Sisci, an Italian diplomat who lives there and whose wife is Chinese, writes in the Washington Post that the idea of "America," even with its flaws, is still held in high regard by everyday people. "The Chinese really look up to the United States. It's hard for them to admit, proud as they are of their 5,000 years of continuous culture, but they do."
That’s why so many Chinese cheer for Michael Phelps; that’s why China’s “most American” athlete, NBA star Yao Ming, is the standard-bearer for the Chinese team. “For many Chinese,” Sisci writes, America is “what China would like to be: rich, powerful and, yes, democratic, too.” And the globalization that has driven China’s rise to economic power “has a name: America.” (Read more 2008 Beijing Olympics stories.)