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China’s Football Dream: Sport, Citizenship, Symbolic Power, and Civic Spaces

Sullivan, Jonathan; Chadwick, Simon; Gow, Michael


Simon Chadwick

Michael Gow


This article examines the mobilization of football in relation to Chinese state-building projects. Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of “symbolic power” is applied to frame policy analysis of China’s 2016-2050 National Football Plan and narrative analysis of developments within China’s rapidly expanding football sector. The extensive mobilization of national, provincial, and local government institutions forms spaces for civic participation in state-building projects through direct participation in football. These civic spaces allow for active citizenship engagement with state projects and for expressions of consensus and participation with the Chinese Dream while also limiting potential for competing cultural movements to emerge. This article argues that such developments are driven primarily for socio-political objectives with the aim of fostering shared notions of citizenship through the medium of sport.


Sullivan, J., Chadwick, S., & Gow, M. (2019). China’s Football Dream: Sport, Citizenship, Symbolic Power, and Civic Spaces. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 43(6), 493-514.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 25, 2019
Online Publication Date Aug 5, 2019
Publication Date Aug 5, 2019
Deposit Date May 10, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 10, 2019
Journal Journal of Sport and Social Issues
Print ISSN 0193-7235
Electronic ISSN 1552-7638
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 6
Pages 493-514
Keywords Sociology and Political Science
Public URL
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