Why China still lags behind its martial arts industry ambitions

May 10, 2017 13:16
Featuring top players from different disciplines, games contest show Wu Lin Feng from Henan Television has become hugely popular in China. Photo: ausnz.net

China is keen to boost traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese martial arts as part of efforts to enhance the nation's so-called soft power.

Under the 13th Five-Year Plan that runs through 2020, martial arts is one of the focus areas for development in China's sports industry.

Authorities plan to build over 3,000 martial arts schools all over the country by the end of this decade, in a bid to create a martial arts industry worth over 1 trillion yuan.

Heeding the government's call, some other initiatives are also afoot. Among these, TV show Wu Lin Feng, produced by Henan Television, is a good example.

The program has invited numerous champions from different disciplines for martial arts contests. Thai boxing and Karate experts can take on traditional martial arts masters in free style.

The promise of big prize money and a chance to shoot to fame has drawn many top players to the show, helping it become very popular.

That said, a key issue stalling the development of a traditional martial arts industry in China is the absence of official tournaments, like those regularly organized in Taekwando, Karate, Thai boxing or mixed martial arts.

As such, it is hard to build up a large enough audience, let alone develop the traditional martial arts into a big profitable industry.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 9

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist