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Softpower, Soccer, Supremacy

The Chinese Dream

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Edited By J.A. Mangan, Peter Horton and Christian Tagsold

Xi Jinping’s "Soccer Revolution" is unique: the most extensive politicization and geo-politicization of the Global Game. His purpose is to extend the global softpower projection of "the Middle Kingdom": an ancient Western imperial mantra ("bread and circuses") has been replaced by a modern Eastern "imperial" mantra ("rice and pitches"). The Asian Football Federation shares this "allopathic" vision of East Asian soccer: the future is Asia and it starts in China! Soccer is a talisman for a New Asia in a New Era. For China soccer is a hubristic instrument of softpower projection. Softpower, Soccer, Supremacy: The Chinese Dream makes this point forcefully. In East Asia soccer in now "much more than a game"!

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5 Positive Projection: Soccer and Xi’s Softpower Strategy— (Leah (Xiufang) Li)

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5 Positive Projection: Soccer and Xi’s Softpower Strategy— Branding, Intention, Ambition, and Assertion

Leah (Xiufang) Li

Introduction

The ongoing lack of success of Chinese men’s national soccer teams in the world competitions is perceived to be incompatible with the consolidation of China’s superpower status. The Chinese leadership has given priority to developing soccer in the hope of achieving international recognition in sport and thus manifesting both national identity and power. It has embarked on a variety of strategies in an attempt to boost its soccer ranking in the world. These include reforming the soccer management and training systems, setting up strong soccer clubs linked to market demands, obtaining high-profile coaches and players from Europe to play in the Chinese Super League, and investing in European soccer clubs. The Chinese President Xi Jinping has proclaimed that the vision for the Chinese sports industry is to generate a domestic economy worth US$ 850 billion by 2025. These actions have sparked a huge amount of global attention and speculation about Beijing’s intentions. Countries like Australia took this opportunity termed as “football diplomacy” to break the ice of the China–Australian relationship in 2018.1 International observers, however, have raised concerns about the consequences of the shift in China’s sporting aspirations to succeed in global soccer, suspecting that it would pose challenges to both international soccer rules and the existing soccer order led by Europe; and that what China wants is not only to host and win...

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