Demystifying the ostensible ‘harmony’ of China’s elite sport system: National-provincial tension

Jinming Zheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This chapter aims to explore the role that provincial-level teams and national-provincial relations play in China’s elite sport development. Three sports/disciplines were selected for in-depth case study with case-to-case comparison: artistic gymnastics, swimming and cycling. The ‘perfect implementation’ framework is deployed to direct the policy analysis. Data were collected from two kinds of sources: (a) a range of official publications, information from sports governing bodies’ websites and influential domestic media; and (b) 11 semi-structured interviews conducted with key Chinese stakeholders. This study reveals that from one sport/discipline to another, there are differences in the extent to which national-provincial tensions exist and in the form those tensions take within China’s seemingly centralised and standardised realm of elite sport. Despite how these conflicts vary in nature between different sports, broad policy implementation theory – particularly the ‘perfect implementation’ propositions – demonstrates heuristic utility for articulating and understanding their causes. Furthermore, what all three case studies have in common are the vital roles played by adequate central resources and by the dominant central power and authority in improving national-provincial cooperation within China’s top-down elite sport system. Addressing the issue of national-provincial tension is important for ensuring China’s sustainable competitiveness on the international elite sport stage.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSport Policy in China
    EditorsJinming Zheng, Shushu Chen, Tien-Chin Tan, Barrie Houlihan
    Place of PublicationOxon; New York
    Number of pages20
    ISBN (Electronic)9781315168234
    ISBN (Print)9781138051669, 9780367520151
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2018

    Publication series

    NameRoutledge Research in Sport Politics and Policy

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Social Sciences(all)


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