Xi Jin-Ping's world cup dreams: from a major sports country to a world sports power

Football is among the world’s most popular sports. It is also one which China has sought to develop in the field of global professional sport. Nevertheless, the professionalization of football in China has not to date actually improved China's Olympic achievement in the sport. In stark contrast to the glory of being the country that won most gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, China’s poor football performance has been troublesome for the country’s leader. In 2009, newly elected Xi Jin-Ping made a public statement about promoting elite football and expressed his personal hope that China would be capable of both qualifying for the final stages and winning the FIFA World Cup. With such concern on the part of the state leader, attention turned to football, with many private enterprises beginning to echo government policy by demonstrating a willingness to promote elite football. In addition, to accelerate football development, the Chinese government promised to take action on the separation of government and football associations. Research on this process was based on the theoretical framework of state corporatism derived from the work of Schmitter (1974). Semi-structured interviews were conducted as the method of data collection aimed at helping us understand how Chinese government either integrated or controlled relevant stakeholders such as NGOs and private enterprises, and further, to discuss the interactions between them.