25 SEPTEMBER 1993, Page 25


On from Monte Carlo, China makes its bid for the financial Olympics


This is the week of China's attempt at an Olympic double. In the Spartan sur- roundings of Monte Carlo, bottle-weary competitors have been wading through the last trenches of hospitality before deciding whether to award Peking the.Games for the year 2000. I regard this,as the ideal oppor- tunity to finish second, but the Chinese do not see it that way. On then to Washington and the double's second leg. The annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are the nearest thing we have to financial Olympics, com- plying as they do with Baron de Cou- bertin's maxim that what matters is not to get anywhere but to take part. For two years in three (as this year) they are staged in Washington, but in the third year they leave town, and member states compete to host them. These are the meetings that gild or scar old-timers' memories — Belgrade 1979 with thousands of bankers and only three bathplugs, Bangkok 1991 when the girls complained that their business was dead by 10 o'clock because the Japanese all pleaded breakfast meetings. . . And 1997? Until now it has been quietly pencilled in for Hong Kong. This would be the perfect advertisement for China in the world of money. It would show that the through train to the new regime had arrived punctu- ally and smoothly, and that in Hong Kong all was business as usual. Now, though, the train is obviously delayed and possibly derailed, the Monte Carlo debate has raised awkward questions about infanticide and labour camps and human rights, and the moment of decision is near. The last out-of-town venue was chosen four years in advance, which is par for the course — and would mean a choice made at the meetings in Washington next week. The Foreign Sec- retary has said that China is not a suitable country to put on the Games. Does that apply to the financial Olympics, or are the rules so different?