BEIJING: "China will surely eclipse Japan. It is a question of when, not if." Thus spake no less an authority than Robert L McCann, chairman/ceo of Nielsen Media Research, when interviewed this weekend by Xinhua, the official news agency of the People's Republic of China.

Already acknowledged as the planet's fastest growing ad market, the communist nation - now clutched firmly to the bosom of global capitalism in mutual embrace - spent an estimated US$37 billion (€27.99bn; £18.91bn) on advertising in 2005, according to NMR. This was exceeded only by Japan and the USA.

McCann, who has still unsatisfied growth ambitions in China, has every reason to talk-up the nation's prospects. "For many companies, China represents one of the world's most important opportunities because of the growing population, continuing evolution of its market, and more people having more money to spend," he told Xinhua.

The Nielsen honcho needs no crystal ball to predict an upsurge in business during the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. It is likely this will be the point at which China storms into world number two position.

"There is a belief that there will be a significant increase in 2007 and 2008 leading into the games in terms of advertising expenditure," McCann said.

But not everything in NMR's Chinese garden is rosy. McCann proclaimed his unhappiness over issues of transparency and independence of CTR, a a significant local competitor part-owned by China Central Television.

But his comment on such competition was truly oriental in its opacity: "Competition is fine," he said. "Clients want us. We focus on our clients."

Data sourced from People