December 17, 2011

The Soccer Mocker: The Economist gets a kick out of ridiculing Chinese football

As I discussed in my previous post, The Economist has published two special articles about China as part of its special Christmas-holiday double issue. I discussed the first of the two in my last post, and intend to discuss the second one here.

In "Little Red Card", The Economist mocks China's attempts at becoming a proficient footballing nation, and, no pun intended, gets a kick out of it.  Even the mention of the efforts of the Chinese government in this direction, which are indeed noteworthy when they are compared to India (the only country that can actually be compared to China in this regard) is done as if doing a favor.

First of all, the article contradicts itself. It concludes that the reason for this dismal state of football is "not (due to) a lack of passion from the country’s leaders". But a few lines ahead, it seems to have suffered a pang of amnesia and asserts that "obscure" individual sports seem to be pursued more by the authorities the team sports due to the higher number of medals up for grabs!
"But the contradictions and weaknesses of Chinese capitalism have also played a part in the country’s footballing ignominy."

Well, the shoddy state of Indian football (or indeed any sport other than cricket, and perhaps chess, and that too due to only one person) begs to differ. Will The Economist then bray that 'the contradictions and weaknesses of Indian democracy have played a part in the country footballing ignominy'?

Once a theory takes hold, it is always easy to find evidence for it. Whenever something goes wrong in China, people always find a proxy to blame it on. As far as China-related reporting is concerned, this has more to do with their own psychology and preferences about how a country should be run than the actual causes of what went wrong. Hence, all of China's defects are blamed on China's "state capitalism" and/or a cartoonish exaggeration of it. At the state that The Economist is in right now, it would be naive to assume that common sense would prevail in its reporting about China.

 "...China also claims the world’s earliest recorded mention of a sport similar to football, during the Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC. A version of the game cuju, or “kick ball”, involved a single, elevated net and two sides of 12 men."
"After, arguably, more than 2,000 years, China still awaits its first home-grown football star"

And there it is, the author simply couldn't resist it. What relation, pray, does having the first recorded mention of the sport have to with the present state of that sport in China? Perhaps the author assumes that 'inventing' something implies that that country should "rule the world" with regards to it 2000 years later. China also has the world's earliest recorded mention of toilet paper; perhaps it should be chided for not "ruling the world" in manufacturing it.


  1. Thats what they says... When dragon speak flames only to come out of mouth.

  2. Thats what they says... When dragon speak flames only to come out of mouth.

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  5. haha....are you referring to me or The Economist? If you are referring to me, then, well, you know what they say - one must fight fire with fire!

  6. The Economist once again misses a chance to prove their objectivity with an unbiased article on a relatively non-political subject. As a German who has lived in China for several years, I get infuriated by such articles and comment sections.

    The corruption of Chinese football is well known amongst my Chinese friends and a source of major embarrassment. But as usual, the Economist points out vague connections and draws major conclusions about China as a whole.

    People who can see past this media bias against China are becoming more and more rare in the West. In Germany, the unbiased, China-experienced voices disappear under a mountain of fear-promoting, anti-China reports in popular media. I am thus quite happy to find this blog and agree with most of Your analysis and discussion.

    Unless the average person in the West (and the East for that matter) can see past their respective media's bias, there is little hope of more positive international relations in the future.

  7. Thanks a lot for the kind words.

    I completely agree with you that relatively objective voices do indeed get drowned by a heap of biased and opportunistic China-related reports.

    And yes - even I think that given the relatively non-political nature of the topic (which was described by the newspaper's Editor-in-Chief, in the newsletter, as not fitting into the normal run of their coverage), it could have been discussed by The Economist in a fair and objective manner. But as they say - the apple doesn't really fall far from the tree... ;-)

  8. Nice take on the Economist's article but isn't all media mostly about entertainment now-a-days?

    People you are prejudiced against China (Unfortunately the majority of non Chinese people) enjoy reading articles like these and they are the audience the news papers are catering to!
    Until people start reading intelligently and criticize articles they feel are wrong, this state of affairs will continue!

  9. Yes I agree, and it's really a sad state of affairs. And this phenomenon of sacrificing accuracy for popularity and catering to the target audience (with regards to China-related issues) is actually at its highest in India!

  10. Considering the following accomplishment by India:

    2008 Beijing Olympics: 2 Medals, including 1 Gold and 1 Bronze medals
    2010 Common Wealth Games: 101 medals, including 38 Golds, 2nd place in overall medals standing
    2010 South Asian Games: 175 Medals, including 90 Golds, 1st place
    2010 Asian Games: 65 Medals, including 14 Golds, 6th place.

    India is already an undisputed worlds sport Superpower. In the 2012 London Olympics, India is projected to win over 50 gold medals, and over 100 gold medals in the next 2016 Olympics. China will not able to catch up to India's superior performances in these games.


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