EU – China Sports Diplomacy

Start date: March 2023

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ilker Gündoğan



After Xi Jinping took office as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, political reform and development efforts in Chinese sports have increased significantly. Between 2014 and 2016, for example, a far-reaching strategy for the development of national football was launched, consisting of four so-called comprehensive reform programmes. In addition, following the successful bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, enormous political efforts have been made to establish and develop winter sports in the country. As a result of these political efforts by high-level party-state actors in China to transform the country into a “powerful sports nation” (体育强国, tiyu qiangguo), and the fact that China is seen as an important (future) market by many international stakeholders in sport, relations, and interactions between various Chinese and foreign sports authorities have intensified considerably in recent years.

However, these developments in the Xi Jinping era have been accompanied by a number of emotionally charged and contentious interactions between Chinese political and foreign sports actors that have attracted relatively high levels of attention both in and outside the PRC in recent years. Sports diplomacy studies such interactions. It is a relatively new discipline dealing with a very old phenomenon. Sports diplomacy is the deliberate attempt by state and non-state actors to use sports, athletes, and sporting events to address foreign actors and audiences with the intention of strengthening international relations and/or overcoming conflicts that have arisen through dialogue, preferably with an outcome that is (more) in line with one’s own normative (pre-)conceptions, or at least to establish and deepen an understanding of the problem or position of the other side.