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Sport in China

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Sport in China

Although China has long been associated with the martial arts, sport in China today consists of a variety of competitive sports played in China, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. Traditional Chinese culture regards physical fitness as an important aspect, and, since the 20th century, a large number of sports activities, both Western and traditionally Chinese, are popular in China. The country has its own national quadrennial multi-sport event similar to the Olympic Games, the National Games of the People's Republic of China.

Football is the number one sport in China, but also badminton, basketball and table tennis are main sports. Prior to the 1990s, sport in China, as in some other countries, was completely government-funded. Some top athletes had quit at the height of their careers because they were uncertain about life post retirement. The situation began to change in 1994 when Chinese football became the first sport to take the professionalization road and in its wake similar reforms were carried out in basketball, volleyball, ping pong and weiqi. The process brought with it commercialization; sport associations became profit-making entities and a club system came into being; professional leagues formed, improving China's sports environment; and commercial management systems took shape. The professionalization of sports has encouraged the emergence of a sports management market and business-structured systems. Sports club operations now cover ticket sales, advertising, club transfers, commercial matches, television broadcasting and other commercial activities. Another aspect of the reform is that some Chinese athletes have joined foreign professional leagues. For instance, basketball star Yao Ming entered the NBA in the 2002 draft.[1]

China led the gold medal count (51) at the 2008 Summer Olympics, which were held in Beijing from 8 August to 24 August 2008 which number 8 is the lucky number which is associated with prosperity and confidence in Chinese culture.[2] China will also host the 2014 Youth Olympic Games from 16 to 28 August 2014 and will continue the fever for bidding for 2030 or 2038 Winter Olympics and will choose a Chinese city which will host.


  • History 1
  • Types of sports 2
    • American Football 2.1
    • Badminton 2.2
    • Bandy 2.3
    • Baseball 2.4
    • Basketball 2.5
    • Boxing 2.6
    • Chess 2.7
    • Cricket 2.8
    • Curling 2.9
    • Figure skating 2.10
    • Football 2.11
    • Golf 2.12
    • Motor racing 2.13
    • Rugby Union 2.14
    • Snooker 2.15
    • Speed skating 2.16
    • Table tennis (ping pong) 2.17
    • Tennis 2.18
    • Volleyball 2.19
    • Weightlifting 2.20
  • Competitive results 3
    • Overview 3.1
    • Olympic Games 3.2
    • Asian Games 3.3
    • National Games 3.4
    • Anti-doping 3.5
  • National fitness 4
  • Youth sports 5
  • Traditional sports 6
  • See also 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Dragon boat racing dates back about 2000 years ago and remains a traditional event held around China every year. There is evidence that Cuju, a sport similar to football, was played in China during the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. From the Song Dynasty on T'ai chi ch'uan and similar qigong martial arts activities became popular in China.

The influx of modern sports appeared in China since the beginning of the 20th Century. The People's Republic of China has emphasized on sports and the government funds and trains young talented players into professional players, especially in the mid-20th century. Ping pong is one of the biggest amateur recreational sports in China today, with an estimated 200 million players. Badminton is also well established and quite popular in China.

According to CCTV Sports Channel, the gold-medal women's volleyball game of the 2004 Olympics drew 30% of TV-owning households; China vs. Brazil in the 2002 World Cup drew 18% of TV-owning households. Football and basketball are also shown on TV.

Popular amateur sports include table tennis, badminton, martial arts and various forms of pool. China's professional sports are in its developmental stages. They also may consist of hacky sack, or ping pong during their free time.

Types of sports

American Football

The arrival of American football in China has come as no surprise following the increasing popularity of the NBA. According to a survey by CSM Research, the NFL fan base in China has grown 462% over the past four years with over 14 million fans in China’s top tier cities. TV viewership grew to 52.1 million in 2013 (an 18 percent growth) with 14.4 million tuning and is on track to becoming a top 10 sport in 19 of China’s largest cities by 2020. Since the NFL established a Mainland office in 2007, NFL Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett, Barry Sanders and Joe Montana, as well as future Hall of Famer and ex-MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and current NFL All-Pro Ndamukung Suh have visited China. When NFL China the first ran their NFL Experience football festival on the Mainland in 2012, there were less than 3 tackle football teams in China. There are now over 30 with 12 teams making up the independent American Football League of China (AFLC), started in 2012. Shanghai is home to a few of the country’s earliest established youth football teams, the Shanghai Youth American Football League’s Red & Green Dragons, and the China Sea Dragons. NFL China created and established the NFL HOME FIELD events in Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai. The full-day football festival day event includes family-friendly interactive football activities, on-field training clinics and local tackle football games featuring local teams. 2013's NFL HOME FIELD was held in three cities over 10 weekends (28 total events) and attracted over 100,000 in attendance traffic. In 2014 NFL launched the NFL ON TOUR, a large scale truck that provides a mobile audio/visual NFL experience visiting 9 cities across the Mainland from August 30-November 23, starting in Shanghai and later visiting Wuxi, Tianjin, Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, Changsha and Guangzhou. NFL shows games on more than two dozen free-to-air TV and online streaming platforms, including the popular online video service PPTV with revenue coming from merchandise, media rights and sponsorships with familiar partners such as Nike (NKE), Budweiser (BUD) and Visa (V).


Lin Dan is the only player in badminton history to have won three consecutive titles at the World Championships (2006, 2007 and 2009).[3]

Because of its relative simplicity, inexpensive equipment, and accessibility to venues, badminton is a very established and popular sport in China. Many Chinese badminton players have gained international success and fame, especially the many Gold medalists at the BWF World Championships. It's a popular recreational sport, and amateur leagues exist across the country.


China started a Ürümqi in June 2009.[4] They didn´t come as planned to the 2011 Asian Winter Games. Harbin plans to start up bandy.[1]


[5] After the Cultural Revolution ended, baseball activities restarted, and the China Baseball Association formed in 1974.[7] In 2002, the China Baseball League was formed, and China participates in the World Baseball Classic. Defeats of the national team to Republic of China, Japan, and South Korea may help change the trend as Chinese become more aware of the game's internationalization.


Yao Ming and other NBA success stories have helped to popularize basketball in China.

The game was introduced to China by American YMCA workers in 1896, just five years after the Canadian, Dr. James Naismith, had invented the game while working for the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.[8]

Since the arrival of Yao Ming in the NBA in 2002, the game has grown considerably in the world's most populated country. The NBA and the domestic China Basketball Association (CBA) are widely followed and more than 400 million people regularly play basketball for leisure. The first professional team in China was a team that started in Shenyang and was sponsored by the Anshan Steel Company. The Chinese Basketball Association was established in 1995 and in 2008 it expanded to 18 teams. The fact that USA is starting to notice Chinese players after Yao Ming's success (compared to Wang Zhizhi and Mengke Bateer), and young CBA players such as Yi Jianlian and Sun Yue entering the NBA are examples of this change in trend.[1] In 2008, Sun Yue became the latest Chinese to join the NBA by signing with the Los Angeles Lakers to a two year contract.[1]


Boxing in China first appeared in the 1920s. Professional boxing is followed by some fans in China.


China had a good result in 2006 37th Chess Olympiad in Turin when the men's team came second behind Armenia and the women's team third for the best result overall. The Chinese progress has been underpinned by large government support and testing competition in numerous tough events. Commensurate with its status, China currently has seven top hundred players, second only to Russia. However, even today countries like Russia and Israel still have an edge in experience over their Chinese counterparts.

Xiangqi is also considered a sport in China, with millions of players nationwide. There is a national Chinese chess league.


Cricket is a fast-growing sport in China. It is already a well established sport in Hong Kong, a former British Colony. The Chinese cricket team is the team that represents the country of the People's Republic of China in international cricket. The Chinese Cricket Association became an International Cricket Council affiliate member in 2004. It should be noted that the Special administrative region of Hong Kong is a member of the ICC in their own right, becoming an ICC associate member in 1969. Hence, players from Hong Kong are not eligible to represent China in international competition.

Prior to the establishment of a recognized national side, the Shanghai Cricket Club, the largest club in the country, played games against many touring sides but they do not receive official recognition from the Chinese Cricket Association.

Since September 2005, the Chinese Cricket Association has conducted 8 coaching/umpiring training courses under the assistance from the Asian Cricket Council (ACC). They're promoted in 9 cities in China, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Dalian, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Tianjin and Jinan. More than 150 schools were involved.

The Chinese Cricket Association has set itself other goals over the next 14 years. [2] A list of these goals follows:

  • 2009: Have 720 teams across the country in a well-organized structure
  • 2015: Have 20,000 players and 2,000 coaches
  • 2019: Qualify for the World Cup
  • 2020: Gain Test status


Although generally unheard of and unpopular, curling has been an improving sport for China to play. The government selected athletic individuals to play curling for China. The Chinese teams both Men and Women have improved at the international level. At the 2008 Ford World Women's Championships, the Chinese curling team consisting of Zhou Yan, Liu Yin, Wang Bingyu, and Yue Qingshuang won a surprising silver medal finish. At the 2008 World Men's Curling Championship, the Chinese didn't have as much success, but they also did very well, finishing 4th. The government is also hoping to promote the sport through Universities and Colleges.[9] In March 2009, China became the first Asian team to win a curling world championship by beating Sweden in the final.[10] At the 2010 Winter Olympic Games the women's team won the bronze medal, defeating Switzerland in 10 ends.

Figure skating

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo are considered by many critics of the sport to be one of the best pair skating teams of all time.

Since the 1990s, China has been one of the top nations in the pairs events of figure skating. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo were very famous figure skating pair in China that received widespread media coverage during their career; they were three-time world champions and won a gold medal in Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010.[11] Comparatively, China is weak in the other three disciplines (men's singles, ladies singles, and ice dance).


Cuju, an ancient form of football from China

Football is the most popular spectator sport in the country and has been one of the most well supported sports in China ever since it was introduced in the 1900s. There is also written evidence that a game similar to football was first played in China around 50 BC.[12] The current Chinese Football Association was founded in the People's Republic of China after 1949. Its headquarters is located in Beijing, and the current chairman is Nan Yong. From 1994 to 2004, CFA established first professional football league, which was "Jia A". The Chinese Super League is the premier football league in China, which was changed from "jia A" in 2004, as the top of a league hierarchy that extends to four leagues. Jia in Chinese also means "First" or "Best". Since its foundation the Super League has been relatively unstable, and has struggled to maintain popularity. [3]

At the international level, Chinese football has enjoyed little success despite the amount of support it receives from fans. Although the national team qualified for the 2002 World Cup, they failed to score a single goal and lost 3 group matches. Conversely, the women's national team has finished second at both the World Championships and the Olympic Games. Despite the Chinese women team's success at international competitions, however, women's football in China does not receive nearly as much attention as their counterparts in Canada and the United States, therefore China's good trend in women's football may well come to an end in the near future. In 1990, China hosted the first women's World Cup in Guangzhou, and in 2004, hosted AFC Asian Cup.

Football has always been among the more popular amateur team sports for recreation in China. High schools often have football facilities, some of which are rented on weekends to local amateur teams to organize matches. It is also the most popular sports to watch on television, with large international tournaments such as the World Cup and the European Championships, as well as major European leagues receiving widespread coverage


Golf tournaments in China include the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, TCL Classic in Sanya on Hainan island, the Volvo China Open and the BMW Asian Open, played in the PRC. The most successful Chinese golfer has been Zhang Lian-wei. The Mission Hills Golf Club golf course at Guanlan in Shenzhen is said to be the world's largest.

At the amateur level, golf is seen as the top recreational sport for businesspeople and officials. Because of their relatively high position in Chinese society, they are usually the only people with access to the sport of golf on mainland China. At the 2007 National People's Congress, caving in to the popular acknowledgment that the building of new golf courses is not only a waste of public funds but an illegal use of space, Premier Wen Jiabao said in his Work Report to the Congress that contracts in building new golf courses should be highly discouraged.

Motor racing

The Chinese Grand Prix is a Formula 1 event held at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Rugby Union

Rugby union is becoming a more popular sport in China, than it previously has been. However, it is still not overly popular. China became affiliated to the International Rugby Board in 1997 and is currently ranked 67th in the world.[13] The national team has not qualified for a world cup so far. One segment of Chinese society where rugby is particularly popular is the military. Rugby is an official sport of the People's Liberation Army, with the PLA Sports Institute participating in the highly competitive Hong Kong leagues. Notable Chinese rugby players include Zhang Zhiqiang ("Johnny Zhang"), who had a stint with the famous Leicester Tigers club in England, and promising young speedster Li Yang, who boasts a time of 10.6 seconds in the 100-meter sprint.


Ding Junhui is the first Chinese snooker player to win a ranking tournament and the Masters.

Although pool or, more specifically, billiards, has long been a popular street recreation sport in China, snooker's popularity has increased over the last few years in China. It can partly be attributed to the ascension of young Chinese player Ding Junhui who has since broken into the international Top 16. More and more young Chinese players are breaking onto the professional circuit such as Liang Wenbo and Liu Chuang who both qualified for the last 32 of the 2008 World Snooker Championship, with Liang going on to reach the quarter-finals where he faced a snooker legend Ronnie O'Sullivan. Snooker is played by an estimated 50 million Chinese people, and there are now over 300 snooker clubs in Beijing alone. Some believe that China should host more tournament events, and one day may even host the World Snooker Championship itself.[14]

Speed skating

There are four indoor speed skating arenas (Changchun, Harbin, Shenyang and Qiqihar). Three of the outdoor ovals were opened ined in 2012 (Fukang, Karamay and Wangqing).[15]

Table tennis (ping pong)

Ping pong (乒乓) is the official name for the sport of table tennis in China. Apart from the national representative team, the table tennis community in China continues to produce many world-class players, and this depth of skill allows the country to continue dominating recent world titles after a short break during the 1990s. The overwhelming dominance of China in the sport has triggered a series of rules changes in the International Table Tennis Federation and as part of the Olympics. Ma Long is currently one of the highest-ranked Chinese table tennis players, and the highest-ranked player in the world.[16] Deng Yaping is regarded by many as one of the greatest table tennis players of all time. The sport played an important role in China's international relations; in April 1972, the US table tennis team were invited to visit China, an event later called "Ping Pong Diplomacy". Table tennis is the biggest amateur recreational sport in China today, with an estimated 300 million players.


Li Na is the first player from China and Asia to win a Grand Slam title.

Tennis is a growing recreational sport in China, although access to tennis courts can be limited in densely populated urban areas. Recently Chinese tennis players, especially women, have seen success internationally both at the amateur level and professionally. International tennis tournaments receive wide coverage on Chinese sporting channels.


Volleyball arrived in Asia in 1908, from there began to be practiced in China and Japan. The China women's national volleyball team (Chinese: 中国女排) represents the People's Republic of China in international volleyball competitions and friendly matches. It's one of the leading squads in women's international volleyball, twice having won the Olympic title (1984 and 2004). China took five consecutive World titles in the 1980s, Asian Volleyball Confederation, as well as the volleyball sports in the All-China Sports Federation


The Chinese also excel at Weightlifting.

Competitive results


Back in March 1959, at the 25th World Table Tennis Championships held in Germany, the table-tennis player Rong Guotuan won the first world title in China's sporting history. It was followed by many more successes. By the end of 2004 Chinese athletes had altogether won 1,800 world championships and broken 1,119 world records. In the 16 years since 1989, Chinese athletes have won 1,446 world championships, accounting for 80.3 percent of the total; and broken 737 world records, making up 65.9 percent of the total. It was a period when China's competitive sports developed continuously and rapidly. At the 2008 Olympics, China made its best ever Olympic showing, with a tally of 100 medals, including 51 golds, 21 silvers and 28 bronzes, coming first in the medals table, achieving a major breakthrough in China's sporting history.

The results in competitive sports were down to a training system which is constantly being perfected. It is based on youth amateur sports schools and basic-level clubs, with teams representing localities as the backbone, and the national team at the highest level. The training system ensures that China elite teams maintain a year-round squad of some 20,000 athletes.

Olympic Games

In July 2001, Beijing finally succeeded in its bid to bring the Green Olympics", "High-tech Olympics" and "Humanistic Olympics". Seven venues, including the National Stadium and the National Swimming Center have ushered in a new period of contemporary architecture for Beijing. The centerpiece of the 2008 Games was "the bird's nest" National Stadium. With a capacity of 91,000 spectators, the stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies as well as track-and-field events.

Since 1949, China has participated in eight Summer Olympics and nine Winter Olympics, winning 385 medals at the Summer Olympics and 44 medals at the Winter Olympics. At the Los Angeles, Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics, China came fourth in the gold medals table, second at the Athens & London Olympics, and first at the Beijing Olympics.

Asian Games

National Games


In 2004, the State Council published their Anti-Doping Regulations, stipulating in detail for the first time regulations concerning the doping control, anti-doping obligations, doping examination and monitoring, legal liabilities and so on. The Regulations have been in force since March 1, 2004.

National fitness

The "Physical Health Law of the People's Republic of China" was adopted in 1995. In the same year, the State Council promulgated the "Outline of Nationwide Physical Fitness Program", followed by a series of rules and regulations. A survey released by the State Physical Culture Administration indicates that at present 33.9% of the population between 7 and 70 exercise regularly and 60.7 percent of the urban population go to sports clubs to engage in fitness activities. It is expected that by the end of 2005, 37 percent of China's total population will participate in regular physical exercises, and that over 95 percent of students will meet the National Physical Exercise Standard. Aiming to improve the health and the overall physical condition of the general population, the Nationwide Physical Fitness Program, with an emphasis on young people and children, encourages everyone to engage in at least one sporting activity every day, learn at least two ways of keeping fit and have a health examination every year.

In this 15 year long program, the government aims to build a sport and health-building service system for the general public. There are about 620,000 gymnasiums and stadiums across China, most of them open to and widely used by the general public. Outdoor fitness centers have been installed in urban communities in public parks, squares, schoolyards, and other convenient locations. All communities and neighborhoods in Beijing are equipped with fitness facilities that meet the national standard. Building on what it already had, Tianjin has instituted large-scale expansion of its outdoor and indoor fitness facilities and stadiums. 2004 saw the completion of China's first large fitness arena with a floor area in excess of 10,000 m2, etc.

Starting in 2001, the State Physical Culture Administration has set aside the proceeds of the sports lottery as pilot funds, in order to build "China Sports Lottery Nationwide Physical Fitness Centers" as pilot projects in 31 large and medium-sized cities throughout the country, including Yangtze River, supporting 101 counties and towns.

With the increase in nationwide fitness activities, people's outlook on life has also changed. In many large and medium-sized cities, spending money in the pursuit of good health has become trendy. New types of sport, including rock climbing, horsemanship, bungee jumping, bowling, skateboarding, women's boxing, shuffleboard, taekwondo and golf are particularly popular among young people. At the end of 2003, work was started on China's first snow golf course in A'er Mountain, Inner Mongolia. This project, representing an investment of about 1 billion yuan, will be the sixth snow golf course in the world.

The Nationwide Physical Fitness Program has set targets that, by 2010, about 40 percent of China's population will participate in regular physical exercise, there will be a clear improvement in the national physique and a major increase in the number of fitness sites so as to satisfy people's needs for keeping fit.

Between 1990 and 2002 the average life expectancy of China's population increased by 3.25 years, reaching 71.8 years, approaching the level of moderately developed countries. The latest survey of the national health, which ended in October 2001, extended over three years and 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government, making it China's largest ever in terms of scale and population numbers. The survey showed an increase in the growth of children and teenagers in China's rural areas, every index showing an average rate of increase surpassing that of same age group children in the cities. But the survey also revealed some grounds for concern. Chinese people's physical faculties drop sharply after they turned 40.

In cities obesity poses a big threat to the health of children and teenagers, and overweight is also very common among adults. The health of women in rural areas is far from satisfactory. Based on the survey findings, relevant departments of the government continuously study methods of keeping fit, set new ways and standards for different age groups and strengthen instruction at community level.

Youth sports

Schools have professional physical educators and exercise facilities and students failing to reach the required physical standards are not allowed to go on to higher schools. Spring and autumn sports meets are annual events. The National Middle School Games and National University Games are held every four years. Promising teenagers are sent to amateur sports schools to receive specialized training.

There are also many youth sports clubs. In recent years, using sports lottery proceeds, the State Physical Culture Administration has established some 500 juvenile sports clubs a year. There were some 3,000 such clubs by the end of 2005.

Traditional sports

It is common for Chinese people to play xiangqi, or Chinese Chess, in public

Traditional sports with distinct Chinese characteristics are also very popular, including martial arts, taijiquan (shadow boxing), qigong (a system of deep breathing exercises), xiangqi (Chinese chess) and weiqi (known as Go in the West).

Taijiquan is a kind of Chinese boxing, combining control of breath, mind and body. It emphasizes body movement following mind movements, tempering toughness with gentleness and graceful carriage.

Qigong is a unique Chinese way of keeping fit. It aims at enhancing health, prolonging life, curing illness and improving physiological functions by concentrating the mind and regulating the breath. There are various entertaining and competitive sports activities in the minority-inhabited areas, for example, wrestling and horsemanship among Mongols, Uygurs and Kazaks; Tibetan yak racing; ethnic Korean "seesaw jumping"; crossbow archery among the Miao, and dragon-boat racing among the Dai ethnic minority.

Xiangqi and weiqi were two of the 5 sports featured at the World Mind Sports Games, held in Beijing in 2008.

See also


  • Susan Brownell: Training the Body for China: Sports in the Moral Order of the People's Republic, University of Chicago Press, 1995, ISBN 0-226-07647-4
  • Dong Jinxia: Women, Sport and Society in Modern China: Holding Up More Than Half the Sky, Routledge, 2002, ISBN 0-7146-8214-4
  • Guoqi Xu: Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008, Harvard University Press, 2008, ISBN 0-674-02840-6
  • Hong Fan: Footbinding, Feminism and Freedom: The Liberation of Women's Bodies in Modern China (Cass Series—Sport in the Global Society), Paperback Edition, Routledge 1997, ISBN 0-7146-4334-3
  • Andrew D. Morris: Marrow of the Nation: A HIstory of Sport and Physical Culture in Republican China, University of California Press, 2004, ISBN 0-520-24084-7
  • James Riordan, Robin Jones (ed.): Sport and Physical Education in China, Routledge 1999, ISBN 0-419-22030-5


  1. ^ a b c Overview of NBA development in China at "ChinaWorldHeritage"
  2. ^ [4]
  3. ^
  4. ^ China on the way into the bandy family
  5. ^ a b [5]
  6. ^ [6]
  7. ^ [7]
  8. ^ [8]
  9. ^ Young Curling Hopefuls Eye Sweeping Success -
  10. ^ [9]
  11. ^ Macur, Juliet (2010-02-16). "China Ends Russian Winning Streak in Pairs With a One-Two Punch". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  12. ^ Was this how football was introduced? The origins & history of the great game.
  13. ^ IRB World Rankings
  14. ^ "Snooker's Chinese revolution". BBC News. 2008-04-21. 
  15. ^ Rinks from China:
  16. ^

External links

  • State General Administration of Sport (Chinese)
  • All-China Sports Federation (Chinese)
  • Chinese Olympic Committee
  • Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
  • NBA in China
  • [10]
  • [11]

Vincent Seeto Made this change

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