CCCH9032 China: Culture, State and Society
Sports and Chinese Society


Course Description

This course deals with sports and their impact on Chinese society with special focus on the role of sports in China’s search for national identity and internationalization. It will provide students with an in-depth understanding of Chinese society, popular culture, and politics. Students will learn how the Chinese have interacted with different peoples from the rest of the world in international games such as the Olympics and the Football World Cup. The course will help students to examine how different peoples, nations, and governments have responded to sports, how the Chinese turned sports into vehicles for both nationalism and internationalism, how Chinese governments in different stages and periods have linked sports to their political legitimacy, and how sports serve as tools for nation building, expressions of national identity and national honour or personal freedom in China. By examining the role of sports in Chinese society, students will gain valuable contextual understanding to better explain culture and politics and better understand China, its society, and its positions in the world.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Apply critical and creative thinking skills to the analysis and interpretation of primary documents and secondary materials related to sports and Chinese society covered in this course.
  2. Apply research and historiographical skills (including developing hypotheses, conducting original research, and placing research findings within existing scholarly contexts) to the analysis and interpretation of primary historical texts and secondary materials on issues related to sports and Chinese society covered in this course.
  3. Interpret, analyze, and critically and creatively reflect upon how sports played an important role in defining and affecting Chinese society and politics and gender issues and how sports has changed its people, the nation, and the world in fundamental and sometimes profound ways.
  4. Interpret, analyze, and critically and creatively reflect upon how Chinese attitudes towards traditional and modern sports are affected by national politics and elite members, and how by studying sports students are better equipped to address questions “what is China” and “who are the Chinese”.
  5. Interpret, analyze, and critically and creatively reflect upon how China’s rise as a sports power coincides with its rise as an economic and political power and affects the country’s relations with the rest of the world.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Reading / Self-study 60
Film viewing 15
Internet search 15
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 20
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 12
Total: 156

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Tutorials (discussion, presentation, debate) 30
Short essay 40
Film viewing and internet search 30

Required Reading

  • Xu, G. (2008). Olympic dreams: China and sports, 1895-2008. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Various articles from newspapers and journals.

Recommended Reading

  • Bridges, B. (2007, March). Reluctant mediator: Hong Kong, the two Koreas, and the Tokyo Olympics. International Journal of the History of Sport, 24(3).
  • Brownell, S. (1995). Training the body for China: Sports in the moral order of the People’s Republic. University of Chicago Press.
  • Brownell, S. (2008). Beijing’s Games: What the Olympics mean to China. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Caffrey, K. (2010). The Beijing Olympics: Promoting China: Soft and hard power in global politics. Routledge.
  • Close, P., Askew, D., & Xin, X. (2007). The Beijing Olympiad: The political economy of a sporting mega-event. London: Routledge.
  • Dong, J. -X. (2001). The female dragons awake: Women, sport, and society in the early years of the new China. International Journal of the History of Sport, 18(2).
  • Gao, Y. -X. (2006, November). The Nationalist and Feminist Discourses on ‘Jianmei’ (Fit/Robust Beauty) during China’s ‘National Crisis’ in the 1930s. Gender and History, 18(3), 546–573.
  • Gao, Y. -X. (2010, Spring). Sex, sports, and China’s national crisis, 1931–1945: The “Athletic Movie Star” Li Lili (1915–2005). Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, 22(1), 96–161.
  • Gimpel, D. (2006, September). Freeing the mind through the body: Women’s thoughts on physical education in late Qing and early Republican China. Nan Nü: Men, Women, and Gender in Early and Imperial China, 8(2), 316–358.
  • Greene, F. (Producer). (1973). Friendship first, competition second. [Motion picture]. New York: Time–Life Multimedia.
  • Hirthler, G. (2005, July–August–September). One World, One Dream. Olympic Review, 56.
  • Hoberman, J. (1984). (Ed.). Sport and Political Ideology. Austin: University of Texas Press. [Purism and the flight from the superman: The rise and fall of Maoist sport, pp. 219–31]
  • Holley, D. (1984, July 18). China raises flag over new era of competition. Los Angeles Times.
  • Hong, F. (1997). Footbinding, feminism and freedom: The liberation of women’s bodies in modern China, Routledge.
  • Hong, F. (1997, Spring). Iron bodies: Women, war and sport in the early communist movement in China. Journal of Sport History.
  • Hong, F. (2001). The significance of the Cultural Revolution for the evolution of sport in modern China. In J. Buschmann & G. Pfister (Eds.), Sports and social changes. Sankt Augustin, Germany: Academia Verlag Richarz.
  • Hong, F., & Hua, T. (2002). Sport in China: Conflict between tradition and modernity, 1840s–1930s. International Journal of the History of Sport, 19(2/3), 189–212.
  • Hong, F., & Mangan, J. A. (Eds.). (2004). Soccer, women, sexual liberation: Kicking off a new era. London: Frank Cass.
  • Hong, Z. H., & Sun, Y. (2000). The butterfly effect and the making of ping-pong diplomacy. Journal of Contemporary China, 9(25), 429–448.
  • Hwang, D. J., & Chang, L. K. (2008). Sport, Maoism and the Beijing Olympics: One century, one ideology. China Perspectives, 1, 4–18.
  • Jones, R. (1999). Sport in China. In J. Riordan & R. Jones (Eds.), Sport and Physical Education in China (pp. 1-19). NY: E and FN Spon.
  • Kanin, D. B. (1978). Ideology and diplomacy: The dimensions of Chinese political sport. In B. Lowe et al (Eds.), Sport and International Relations. Champaign, Ill.: Stipes.
  • Larmer, B. (2005). Operation Yao Ming: The Chinese sports empire, American big business, and the Making of an NBA superstar. Gotham Books.
  • Lu, S. -P. (1999). Nationalist feelings and sports. Journal of Contemporary China, 22, 517–33.
  • Manzenreiter, W., & Horne, J. (Eds.). (2004). Football goes east: Business, culture and the people’s game in China, Japan, and South Korea. New York: Routledge.
  • Morris, A. (1999). Chinese men look like real athletes: From calisthenics and gymnastics (Ticao) to athletics (Tiyu) in 1910s China. Sports –– the East and the West: Documentary volume of the 3rd International ISHPES Seminar. Sankt Augustin: Academia.
  • Morris, A. (2005). Marrow of the Nation: A history of sports and physical education in republican China. University of California Press.
  • Morris, A. (2007, October). To make the 400 million move: The late Qing origins of modern Chinese sport and physical culture. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 42(4), 876–906.
  • Ren, H. (1999). China and the Olympic Movement. In R. Jones, & J. Riordan (Eds.), Sport and physical education in China. London: Routledge.
  • Riordan, J., & Dong, J. X. (1996). Chinese women and sport: Success, sexuality and suspicion. The China Quarterly, 145.
  • Riordan, J., & Jones, R. (Eds.). (1999). Sport and physical education in China. NY: E and FN Spon.
  • Shih, C. -W. (1963). Sports go forward in China. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.
  • Yu, C. -M. (2005). Female physical education and the media in modern China. In M. Leutner & N. Spakowski (Eds.), Women in China: The republican period in historical perspective (pp. 482–505). Munster: Lit.

Recommended Website(s)


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor G.Q. Xu
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2876
Email: xuguoqi@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor G.Q. Xu
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2876
Email: xuguoqi@hku.hk