Sunday, March 07, 2010

Ryan Pyle Blog: China's Fat Children


I like to blog about topics that offer a peak in to the psychological makeup of the Chinese, and this story below by Nick Mulvenney offers a unique glimpse in to the thinking behind one of China's top sports officials.

In the article below the President of Beijing's Sports University says that China's youth are essentially fat and out of shape and incapable of defending China from a future war against the Japanese. That is a unique statement for a sports administrator to make.

Now it's true that the president of the Sports University is trying to be shocking, of course he wants more funding for his school and he is more a politician than an educator. But I love the fact that instead of talking about obesity and health, or diabetes, or any of the other health concerns that can occur with child obesity he chooses to try to strike fear in to people's hearts by saying basically that Japan will attack China at some stage in the future and China must be fit enough to defend itself.

Don't you think that sports administrators and educators should stick to talking about gold medals, university athletics and the physical health of children and adults? At what point should a sports administrator make geo-political statements about potential military conflict against a major trading partner? This kind of talk dates back to the 1960s and 1970s; sadly the mentality of a lot of Chinese officials hasn't changed much since then, even though the country's youth are much more progressive.

This article, and the statements made by the President of the Beijing Sports University, offers a unique glimpse in to how many Chinese, especially the older generations, still feel about Japan; and how they feel about the importance of China have a powerful military.

Imagine for a moment if the Athletic Director at the University of North Carolina, famous for a great sports program, made comments about US obesity and the country not being able to defend itself from an attack by the UK, a formal colonial master, or China, a rising super power - he would most likely be removed from his post or pressured to resign. That kind of war mongering and backwards way of thinking doesn't help. Our world is pretty fragile and we all need to choose our words carefully. Someday, perhaps soon, Chinese officials will learn that as well.

Copywrite: Reuters
Original Story LINK

Title: Children exercise during a weight-losing summer camp in Shenyang, Liaoning province

By Nick Mulvenney – Thu Mar 4, 10:52 am ET

BEIJING (Reuters) – China must urgently address the physical fitness of the nation's youth or run the risk of raising a generation incapable of fighting the Japanese in a future war, the head of the country's top sports university said Thursday.

The government must immediately invest some of its new wealth in ensuring that children take regular exercise, Beijing Sports University president Yang Hua told the sports group of the largely ceremonial advisory body to China's annual parliament.

"It is time for the Chinese nation to improve the physical fitness of our next generation," said Yang. "If we miss the next three to five years a whole generation will be next to useless.

"If there was another war against Japan, would the younger Chinese be able to fight the Japanese one-on-one?

"The government has enough money for banquets and for luxurious office buildings, do they not have money for children's physical education?" he added.

Japan invaded and occupied much of China between 1931 and 1945. Rancour over Japanese wartime atrocities has subsided as a diplomatic flashpoint, but it continues to shape Chinese public attitudes toward Japan and its people.

The fitness of China's young dominated the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference's sports group, a normally sedate gathering turned into a media circus this year by the presence of hurdler Liu Xiang.

The former Olympic and world champion 110 meter hurdler, unconventionally dressed in jeans with his shirt tails hanging out, was making his first appearance as one of the 22 members of the committee.

"A healthy body is the foundation of everything," he said. "I hope I can be an example to attract more attention to athletics, and encourage our children to be stronger and stronger."

The emphasis on academic education in China -- Chinese teenagers preparing for the university entrance exams often study for more than 12 hours a day -- has been blamed for the lack of exercise undertaken by young.

A year after China's elite athletes succeeded in topping the medals table with a cascade of gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, August 8 was declared "National Fitness Day."

"A survey has shown that Chinese teenagers are behind their Japanese peers in almost every indicator it measured," Jiang Xiaoyu, a senior member of the organizing committee for the Beijing Games, told the meeting.

"The physical fitness of the young is a matter of strengthening our country and our Chinese race."

(Additional reporting by Liu Zhen and Ben Blanchard, editing by Patrick Johnston)

Ryan Pyle


  1. Hi Ryan,

    I lived in Chengdu, China when I was a little girl in 1984. The doors had just reopened...I was one of the first foreign children to attend school there.
    Just wondering if the TV over there still has a channel dedicated to WWII footage and the atrocities committed against the Chinese.

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