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Softpower, Soccer, Supremacy

The Chinese Dream


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the global softpower projection of "the Middle Kingdom": an ancient Western imperial mantra ("bread and circuses") has been replaced by a modern Eastern "imperial" mantra ("rice and pitches").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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6 “The Chinese Dream”: Neglected Dimension—Who Is Chinese? Multi-Ethnic Soccer Representation (Tobias Zuser and Lawrence Ka-ki Ho)


6 “The Chinese Dream”: Neglected Dimension—Who Is Chinese? Multi-Ethnic Soccer Representation

Tobias Zuser and Lawrence Ka-ki Ho


It is often said that politics should not interfere with sports. However, the realization of China’s soccer dream might also be determined by another often-neglected dimension: Who is Chinese and who can represent China internationally? The current law prohibits dual nationality and there are strict administrative procedures for non-ethnic Chinese who intend to obtain legal citizenship. In China’s current national team, the majority of players is of Han Chinese origin, while there are only a few members that belong to the country’s other 55 ethnic groups. Mixed-ethnic or non-ethnic Chinese players are completely absent. This is in sharp contrast to Europe and many Arabic countries, which have been utilizing the resources of migrants, refugees, and ethnic minorities to increase their international competitiveness. In fact, most of the top performing soccer nations in recent years seem to have benefitted from an increasingly diverse talent pool. Arguably, this global trend may also affect China’s politics of representation in the foreseeable future. For instance, in recent years, soccer development policies have put greater emphasis on the northwestern province of Xinjiang, where Uyghurs have been identified as promising athletes, reshaping the body myth previously associated with the Korean minority in China’s northeast. From an ideological perspective, a “change of face” in the national team would not only offer a socio-political opportunity to foster national identity and cohesion,...

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