Dissolution of Xi Jinping waves hit the industry of “football diplomacy” dead-end

Chinese professional football is facing serious problems now that the wave of dissolution has hit the club. On the other hand, China’s whole area Ichiro initiative to promote the (BRI) of China’s authoritarian leader Xi Jinping that use a lot of money game as “soccer diplomacy” ambition is collapsed.

At the end of March this year, the Chinese Football Association officially announced the new season’s three-level league entry list. The Chinese Super League defending champions Jiangsu and the three Chinese A-League teams were not on the list due to financial problems.

According to mainland Chinese media, a wave of club folds has spread in China’s second league since last year, with a total of nearly 20 teams no longer alive. The high cost of running a soccer team is hurting the development of sports in China.

On December 14, 2020, Chairman of the Chinese Football Association, Chen Xuyuan, said: “Chinese clubs invest three times as much as the J-League (Japanese professional league) and ten times as much as the K-League (Korean professional league).). The wages of front-line players are those of the J-League. It’s 5.8 times, 11.6 times that of Korean players. “But Chinese men’s soccer teams at all levels haven’t participated in the World Series for 15 to 20 years.

The most popular is the sport is a “global language” soccer in the world, is an area that is coveted as a means to influence the stage of 習近 Xiaoping world is the Chinese Communist Party regime and its leaders.

Xi started using “soccer diplomacy” when he visited Europe in 2014. He frequently talked about football with heads of state and the media in the Netherlands, France, Germany and other countries, revealing that he is a big fan of the game. He said from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece media “Mr. Soccer on the diplomatic stage.”

From 2014 to 2016, China rapidly expanded its reach abroad by spending huge amounts of money on the world’s most prestigious professional soccer league. According to official Chinese media, China’s leading financial groups have acquired shares in Europe’s top 15 football clubs, including Italy’s Serie A team Inter Milan, Spain’s team Atletico Madrid and the UK’s Wolverhampton Wanderers. did.

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Spain: Inter Milan’s Argentine forward Diego Milito celebrates the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League final football match between Inter Milan and Bavarian Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid (Pierre Phillips Marcue) / AFP / Getty Images)

Infiltrate FIFA

In addition, the Chinese administration has begun to infiltrate the FIFA, the governing body of the world of football, in order to expand its influence on the international arena through sports.

In June 2017, Xi met with FIFA President Gianni Infantino in Beijing. In 2018, China’s men’s soccer team did not pass the qualifying to play in Russia’s World Cup, but China, along with the United States, has become the country with the most sponsors contributing to the game.

A 2019 New York Times article pointed out that FIFA “talks only about football and avoids mentioning human rights” to China.

Chinese Communist Party officials have a high level of position in FIFA and are involved in organizational decision making. Zhang Jian, then Vice President of the Chinese Football Association, was added as a FIFA councilor for the 2017-2019 term.

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino will give a speech at the 68th FIFA Tournament held in Moscow, Russia on June 13, 2018. (Reuters / Sergei Calpkin)

In April 2019, Du Zhaocai, Secretary-General of the Chinese Communist Party Committee of the Chinese Football Association, was elected FIFA Councilor for a term of 2019-2023.

BRI push

At the same time, Chinese companies are using football to help the Chinese Communist government promote Xi’s BRI global expansion strategy.

Suning Group Chairman Zhang Jindong, who acquired Inter Milan, proposed a bill at the annual high-level national political conference of the CCP 2 session in March 2017, supporting Chinese companies with a BRI strategy for global expansion of CCP. I asked.

In 2017 and 2018, the Suning Group held the “One Belt, One Road” Suning Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament.

The Chinese administration has added FIFA support to FIFA’s BRI-themed promotional soccer tournament. For example, the Belt and Road Cup International Beach Soccer Tournament in Haikou, China, “has become an international A-level event approved by FIFA,” according to official Chinese media.

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The signature and logo of Wanda Group, a Chinese multinational conglomerate and FIFA partner, will be found at the World Football Governing Headquarters in Zurich on October 13, 2016.
(Fabrice Coffrini / AFP via Getty Images)

However, the big money game in Chinese football has been destroyed by Xi’s own policies. In 2018, Xi restricted capital outflows and began cracking down on “irrational investments” in the sports sector, especially for football clubs. The administration has also begun to impose a 100% tax on international remittance fees for football players, which has exacerbated the situation for Chinese companies that own football clubs.

In 2018, Wanda Group of China sold a 17% stake in Atletico Madrid.

In 2019, Fosun International was reported to sell a 20% stake in Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Suning Group, which spent a huge amount of money to buy Inter Milan in 2016, not only disbanded the Chinese champion team Jiangsu Football Club in February 2021, but is now selling Inter Milan. ..

Meanwhile, China’s BRI is facing a strong backlash as it has been accused of infringing sovereignty by setting debt traps in participating countries. For example, Australia recently closed a BRI deal with China.

“Belt and Road is becoming more and more infamous in the world, and football diplomacy in the west is at a standstill,” said Lee Linyi, a current situation commentator in China based in the United States. He added that the administration’s recent policy reforms, along with Xi’s football dream, are one of the reasons why China’s football industry has collapsed.

Long Tengyun contributed to this report.