China’s Stadium Diplomacy Reaches a Fever Pitch in Africa

"For relatively small outlays - usually well short of $100 million - China constructs a sterile national arena that can be opened with long speeches and presidents in tailored suits kicking balls for the cameras, in return for sweetened access to natural resources, votes at the United Nations and the marginalization of Taiwan."

Since the mid-1970s, China has embarked on a strategy of Stadium Diplomacy, constructing more than 50 stadiums throughout the developing world.

From Laos to Togo and a wealth of locations in-between, these infrastructural projects are often times financed entirely by China at little financial cost to the local government, and from an outsider’s perspective, can seem innocuous, if not underlined by a sense of goodwill. But while the financial cost may be low, Chinese expectations can be enormous.

Whether it’s an agreement granting China favorable development rights to large tracts of land, to coming to terms on inequitable trading agreements or even shifting course and rejecting Taiwan’s sovereignty in the UN, the quid pro quo on display is weighty, and extends far beyond the cavernous concrete stadiums that China has constructed.

This is par for the course in the world of international diplomacy, where countries curry favor with one another by developing infrastructural projects in exchange for favorable trading terms. That said, while modern stadiums are often the desire of football fans across the world, Chinese involvement has led to historic changes in the way that domestic supporters embrace their national teams.

Rather than construct new stadiums near their predecessors, many of these Chinese projects have placed stadiums in cities where materials are most readily available, moving some teams away from their spiritual homes and the neighborhoods that packed their terraces with supporters. The echoes of cultural history have been replaced by plastic chairs and high-definition monitors. 

Over at Roads and Kingdoms, Elliot Ross takes a look at the effects of Chinese involvement from a fan’s perspective. Be sure to take a look. [Posted by Maxi

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    I have thought about this a bit since finding out in 2009 when in Kampala that the Ugandan national stadium was financed...
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