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China to rewrite Sports Law

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

China's history

China first introduced administrative structures for sports in the form of a National Sports Law in 1929.

However, due to Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, that piece of legislation was declared void along with every other law that was enacted by the Nationalist Government. It wasn't until 1995 that the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC)

The politicisation of Sports

Government initiatives such as the hosting of sports mega-events, has politicised sports development in China. Human Rights activists have argued that Beijing is attempting to 'sportswash' their reputation by hosting SME's such as the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Sportswashing: To deflect unwanted attention by hosting sporting events (Collins dictionary)

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

China regard sport as a political utility, which has helped improve their image at home and abroad. Sport has been utilised for improving diplomatic relations, most notably with the USA in the 1970s through table-tennis.

China had been viewed as an aggressor by the west, and in 1971 the World Table Tennis Championships in Japan would change that perception. Team USA received an invitation to visit China, and their player Glenn Cowan faced Zhuang Zedong (of the PRC). Whilst the Americans left empty-handed, the event paved the way for President Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972.

Sports Law 1995

The 1995 law set out to promote the development of sport in China by highlighting the state's role and through the establishment of sports associations that would carry out national sports policy. Despite much of the legislation shifting daily control to nongovernmental associations, there remained many provisions throughout the legislation that reflect the traditional Maoist principles of serving "the people".

While the Sports Law improved the organizational structure of sports in China, the law failed to adequately address issues such as anti-doping.

China's doping problem

Throughout the 1990s, 28 Chinese swimmers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, forcing China to face reality. Whilst the Chinese government officially opposed performance-enhancing drugs, they had consistently denied a doping problem amongst their athletes.

A former doctor for the Chinese Olympic team revealed that more than 10,000 of China's athletes were involved in a state-supported compulsory doping scheme. The whistleblower claimed that China’s medals in the 1980s and 90s came from PEDs.


The draft revision includes 11 chapters and 109 articles, seeing an increase of 55 articles from the 1995 Sports Law. The revision includes a chapter on sports arbitration, providing regulations on arbitration and establishing a legal regime. Provisions, regulations and principles were added which included anti-doping, sports arbitration and protection of rights and interests for athletes and sports organizations.

China's added an anti-doping chapter to the Law, reflecting China's fight against doping in sport. It implements stricter regulations to promote anti-doping efforts and prohibits the supply of banned drugs to athletes. As well as anti-doping, the draft revisions also cover the development of sports in areas with "large ethnic minority populations, border areas and economically underdeveloped areas".

Critics might view this particular revision as an attempt by China to sportswashing its human rights reputation.


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