Transformation of the state sports policy and system in China (1949–1989)

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Shen, Liang
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University College Cork
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Ideologies and the party-state system are key to understanding the transformation of sports policies and systems in Communist China, as they impact significantly on the manner and role of government in developing sport and sports policies. This thesis seeks to analyse the extent to which dominant ideology impacted upon sports policies and systems in China. It also explores the changes in sports policies under dominant ideologies between the Mao and post-Mao era from 1949 to 1989. Gramsci’s contextualised theory of cultural hegemony and Weber’s revised classification provide a critical perspective for analysing the relationship between dominant ideology and sports, enabling us to decipher the relationship between State-Party and sports throughout the shift of political legitimacy from 1949 to post-Mao China (1977–1989). This research has adopted an interpretive perspective to elucidate social construction and changes in political ideology that impacted upon the development of sports policies and systems in Communist China between 1949 and 1989. The transformation of China’s state sports policy is treated as a synthesis of historical narrative, blended with interpretation and reflection of policy documents and interviews, in which key themes are fully explored. Data was collected from a number of sources, including official government documents, news media, and a series of 13 interviews with Chinese officials, scholars and people who experienced this transformation. The analysis reveals that Maoism in practice had a greater influence on sports policies than Communism in China. A contribution made by this thesis is its analysis of the relationship between the components of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism, including the mass line, and sports policies after the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), especially in relation to the early years of the PRC. Secondly, compared with the Maoist era, sports policies in the 1980s were less affected by ideological requirements, as political ideology in the Party and government policy began to transition into economic pragmatism. This transition fostered the growth of pragmatic and performance-based features in sports policies, which constitutes another contribution of this thesis to the existing research. Thirdly, the party-state system that was formed and developed in the Maoist era remained fundamentally the same during the next era, from 1977 to 1989. However, the launch of market-oriented reform affected more and more aspects of Chinese society, including the sports system. This led to the following contradictions: political and ideological requirements under the party-state system shaped the development of sports policy and system, while post-Maoist market-oriented reform played a profound, irrefutable role in the shaping of sports policy and system by promoting the modernisation of Chinese sports.
Sports policy and system , China , Ideology , Party-state system , Hegemony , Legitimacy , Maoism
Shen, L. 2019. Transformation of the state sports policy and system in China (1949–1989). PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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