Experts see Chinese people gaining a big psychological boost and coming out with greater confidence on the international stage as a result of the success of the Beijing Olympics. Opinions are divided over how that success will shape China's future, but analysts agreed the Games had boosted the Communist Party's standing at home. 'The Olympics has demonstrated the success of the system and increased people's trust in the government,' said Hu Xingdou , a professor of economics and China issues at the Beijing University of Science and Technology. China overtook the United States as winner of the most Olympic gold medals, and the meticulous effort it put into organising the Games also won worldwide praise. In a commentary marking the Games' closing, Xinhua described them as a milestone in China's history and a national renaissance. Indeed, the country's enormous effort produced a clean, safe and spectacular Olympic Games. Since the Olympic flame was extinguished in the National Stadium, President Hu Jintao has returned his attention to sustaining rapid growth in the face of a global economic slowdown. But China also faces many other problems, including rising inflation, income inequality, corruption and pollution. And during Mr Hu's six years as the head of the party and state, much-anticipated political reforms have not appeared on his agenda. Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a China watcher at City University of Hong Kong, said the leadership had succeeded in using the Games to mobilise people's support and to consolidate the party's legitimacy at a time when many had lost faith in the old Marxist ideology. 'The government has skilfully seized on the Games as a tool to promote patriotism and rally support for communist rule,' he said. 'They seized the initiative to raise the morale of 68 million party members and to make the public overlook its failures in other areas.' Professor Hu said China had a tradition of linking sports with politics. Even before the founding of the People's Republic, Chinese saw sports as having a role in building the nation. Sun Yat-sen, the founder of modern China, saw in sports a literal solution to removing the shameful tag western powers had put on China as 'the sick man of East Asia'. Former Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek called on the nation's 450 million people to train their bodies to help defeat the Japanese. Communist leader Mao Zedong loved to launch massive campaigns promoting physical exercise. China also famously used 'ping-pong diplomacy' to engage the United States. 'Throughout the years, Chinese politicians have micromanaged every aspect of the nation's sports events,' Professor Hu said. No one can definitively measure how much support the leadership has garnered from the Olympics, but a recent survey conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre showed that 86 per cent of Chinese respondents were satisfied with their country's direction, far ahead of people in other countries. Professor Hu said Chinese people embraced the country's role as Olympic host with an ardour and unanimity rarely seen before. 'The enthusiasm does not stem from the love of sports. Rather, the Olympics are being interpreted as a testament to the government's legitimacy and achievements.' What remains unclear is whether some of the positive policies authorities enacted during the Olympics will stay in effect after the Games finish - such as allowing foreign journalists freer access to information. Some optimists hoped China would follow South Korea, the host of the 1988 Games, and embark on the road to democracy. Some of China's critics, on the other hand, compared the Beijing Olympics to the 1936 Berlin Games and predicted the country would grow into a bigger threat than Nazi Germany. Professor Hu said neither scenario appeared likely. 'It is obviously over-optimistic, as some westerners hoped, that the Games would do to a communist-ruled country what they did to South Korea in 1988,' he said. The party knew that legitimacy in governance could no longer grow out of the barrel of a gun, nor could it be derived from political dogma, he said. It could win that legitimacy only by delivering deeper and broader prosperity. 'While the Hu-Wen administration will continue to deepen reforms in the economy and speed up economic liberalisation, it is unlikely that the successful hosting of the Games will translate into an impetus for political reform,' Professor Hu said. Professor Cheng said the government might allow for some social relaxation once the Olympics ended and international attention shifted elsewhere. But he said the party would not give up its monopoly of power. Dai Qing , a long-time dissident based in Beijing, said the Games meant the communist leadership would become more confident about maintaining authoritarian rule. Ms Dai pointed out that Beijing did not give in to international pressure on human rights and did not deliver on its promise of free internet access throughout the Games. In the run-up to the Olympics, authorities actually tightened control of domestic media and imposed draconian security measures. 'The Games will only encourage the government to continue its repressive policy, tighten its grip on the media and suppress free speech, and heighten its repression in Tibet and Xinjiang ,' Ms Dai said.