Even without the Olympics, China's already a massively enticing place for U.S. businesses. Most of us think about China's low-cost labor, but China's actually starting to lose that advantage to lower-cost places like Vietnam and India. The longer-term dream is the China market, selling cars and food and clothing and pharmaceuticals to a rapidly growing middle class that's already 150 to 200 million people. That's the backdrop to your question.
Depending who you talk to, the Olympics bring both opportunities and risks for multinational companies.
On the plus side is infrastructure: Because of the Olympics deadline, Beijing has recently completed a fancy new airport and several new subway lines; plus hundreds of new hotels have just gone up. Combine that with the new rail lines and freeways and Internet backbone being built across China and multinationals consider that a giant advantage over competitors like India.
Another area of progress, albeit slow-motion, is on energy and the environment. Business folks care about these things because if China doesn't tackle these things, economic growth will slow down; if there's not enough clean water to go around the farmers and battery factories and paper mills can't ALL keep producing at full capacity.
Beijing's starting to tackle these issues because of the Olympics -- largely for cosmetic reasons -- but optimists say in the long run the games have forced the issue in a good way.
Here's an Olympics issue that could go either way: China's image, the notion of "Brand China." If things go well, China's reputation will get a boost, similar to Japan in 1964 and South Korea in 1988. The good-case scenario is China's product quality and safety are no longer a joke around the world and China can develop global brands that consumers actually want to buy. Remember how we all laughed about Japanese cars back in the day, and how no one's laughing any more? That's what China wants to replicate. That would prolong the economic boom, create more middle-class folks willing to shop, go on vacation, stay in hotels and do all the things multinational companies investing in China want to happen.
Obviously if something goes wrong to stain China's image, then all those things get set back.
Another negative item business groups mention is China's visa policy. In the run-up to the games, China has made it difficult or impossible for many foreign businessmen and women to come in. It's similar to what the U.S. did after Sept. 11. And whether the visa policy reverts to normal after the Olympics is still an open question.