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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the global softpower projection of "the Middle Kingdom": an ancient Western imperial mantra ("bread and circuses") has been replaced by a modern Eastern "imperial" mantra ("rice and pitches").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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9 Failed Diplomatic Tool: Soccer—An Evolving Soft Power Relationship between China and Korea (Jong-sung Lee)


9 Failed Diplomatic Tool: Soccer—An Evolving Soft Power Relationship between China and Korea

Jong-sung Lee

Introduction: Sport, Ideology, and Politics

It cannot be denied that success in the international sport’s arena has, through modern history, contributed to enhancing national kudos and stature. Sporting exploits have been extolled as important evidence of ideological supremacy in past Communist, Fascist and Nazi regimes. However, liberal democratic governments too have shown a tendency to associate sport with their political objectives and particularly apparent during the Cold War. Indeed, sport was a surrogate battleground upon which to demonstrate the superiority of the political systems of the West and the East. It was a confrontational characteristic which tended to generate a great deal of ideologically loaded press reports which served to aggravate pre-existing antagonistic sentiment against ideological adversaries.

It should also be stated that there was another political dimension to the Cold War sport’s landscape; sport also functioned as a diplomatic tool used to alleviate tension and to set up diplomatic relations between adversaries. Sport exchanges also served as an overture to the creation of an amicable mood between the East and the West, most notably in the case of the “Ping-pong diplomacy” between China and the United States in the 1970s. The relative success of “Ping-pong diplomacy” would never have happened without the pragmatism of both governments in establishing diplomatic ties with each other. These very much softpower sporting exchanges helped promote their respective...

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