The two extremes of Chinese characteristic physical education


(From ifeng) Kids in China are forced to relate to sports in one way or another. Some of them maximize physical training so that they can count on sports to earn a living in the future, the rest has to minimize exercise intensity to focus on passing exams and getting into better schools. These two extreme attitudes towards sports constitute unique Chinese characteristic physical education.


PE schools in China are just like assembly line, mass-producing generations after generations of sportsmen as gold medal snapping machines. Many parents nowadays still send their children into PE schools either because they are too busy to foster children’s self-discipline or counting on kids to realize their own gold medal dream.


Children who are only 4 – 7 years old are kept in the training room to practice running, leg pressing, hand standing, bouncing and balancing day after day,which is deemed to be the only way leading up to gold medal dream. Thus, they are repeating tedious exercises rather than enjoying their colorful childhood. These children are admitted to PE school at the age of 4, but 90% of them won’t make it into the province team to become professionals, then mostly like they will find it difficult again to fit in normal schools.


To live up to the country’s glory and their parents’ pride, the innocent children become tools. Can any parents cross their heart and say that they send the children to PE school for such cruel training because their little ones are actually enthusiastic about weigh lifting or gymnastics?


When a Chinese sportsman steps on the highest stand and receives applauses and flash lights like a hero, do people realize the saying that a general’s reputation is built upon sacrifices of tens of thousands of soldiers? Behind Yang Wei (Olympic gold medalist for all-around gymnastics) and Xing Aowei (Olympic gold medalist and becomes coach of national gymnastic team at 23), there are thousands of Zhang Shangwu (photo above, he entered national team at 12 but returned to local team 7 years later without making it to any world game due to tendon injury; in 2007, he was sentenced 4 years jail time for stealing in the PE school; earlier this year he was seen performing and begging on the street.)


Nonetheless, going professional to realize world champion dream is not yet mainstream. To the other extreme, there are a lot more parents hoping their kids to behave and study hard in school. For these kids, PE plays a totally different role.


The most frequently practiced sports is radio gymnastic exercise that takes about 10 minutes out of their busy study routine. For these gymnastic exercise, children are just perfunctory stretching a little bit, then go back to classroom to bury themselves in books, hardly warm up.


However, even the simple 10 minutes exercise of the day can be challenging for some students. In Licheng experimental primary school, 1300 out of 2200 students in the school have to take the exercise out to the street since their playground is only big enough to hold 900 students.


Some creative schools manage to play popular sports like football and basketball in a much safer way – the unprecedented football and basketball gymnastics. Finally our kids get to do some real sports, only we play it gymnastically, and there is not much game in it.


In a recent transnational football match between Chinese and Russian kids, the Chinese school team which prides themselves for football training lost the game by 0 – 15 while being generally 3 years older than their Russian opponents. The principal of the school said sighed during interview: nowadays the most important principle for primary school PE class is accident free; facilities like parallel bars, box horse have been taken away long time ago, even shot putting is canceled after one dropping on a student’s feet. He said: “no matter how many gold medals our country gets, it is meaningless because it can’t represent the overall physical condition of the people.”


Maybe Chinese students can’t never really taste the happiness and youthfulness of doing sports as long as our PE attitude goes unchanged. The two extremes of our PE practice for the young generation is the biggest shame on China sports.

(The above content is completely translated from ifeng and does not represent the opinion and standpoint of the writer or the site.)

  1. Good post, but grammatical errors continue to plague ChinaHush.

    “Maybe Chinese students can’t never really taste the happiness and youthfulness of doing sports as long as our PE attitude goes unchanged. The two extremes of our PE practice for the young generation is the biggest shame on China sports.”

    Should be, for example…

    “Perhaps Chinese students will be unable to know the happiness and joy of participating in sports so long as China’s attitude towards P.E. remains unchanged. The two extremes of China’s attitude toward P.E. for its younger generations is shameful for China’s organized sports programs.”

    I’d be happy to help with more grammatical advice. No charge.

    1. LOL I bet it’s the only thing that they suck in, among all the sports that they do. If this is the only reason that you say it’s a waste of physical effort, then I really feel sorry for you and your education system!
      Although I do feel sorry, very sorry, for these “produced” Chinese athletes, I admire the effort and all the hard work that they have done in Badminton, Volleyball, Ping-pong…

  2. it’s interesting that this keeps coming up time and time again. Since the end of the Qin dynasty, there have been calls to increase the overall value of Physical education in China. this is a constant refrain in calls for change inside China.

  3. Stress, pressure and all the hard regimental lifestyle will eventually shorten the careers of these athletes. Moderation is the key, hard work, rest and recuperation. Ip Man would think this is nuts.

    1. For regular kids, yeah. But for kids who want to get into the olympics, no. That doesn’t just go for the Chinese, it’s basically the same everywhere in the world. Even middle school club sports are rigorous for kids who want to make varsity their freshman year. Practice, rigor, discipline, determination — basically the same for everyone around the world.

  4. they all suck. with all that population, you would think they have one dominant player in every sport. failed!

  5. It’s interesting why Chinese athletes excel in individual sport disciplines but don’t perform quite well in team games.

  6. Sports are a waste of time, the odds of becoming a top athlete is tiny. And even they do, so what? What the hell good is athletics? Their parents should really rethink their decisions.

  7. Shouldn’t those athletes who don’t succeed (this is often just due to injury) be employed to teach sport in regular schools. Or more realistically – to teach others who might be better adapted to be sport teachers.

    It seems to me that there is an economic advantage that can be obtained. An increase in physical activity generally increase health of people – which will be important as the number of elderly increases proportionally to the young. And… there’s diabetes and heart disease to worry about.

    But this seems a difficult problem to solve. And… reduction in smoking (or car accidents) is probably more important.

  8. The most important sentence here is:
    “no matter how many gold medals our country gets, it is meaningless because it can’t represent the overall physical condition of the people.”

    So far at these Olympics we’ve seen China doing well in swimming. I’d estimate about 90% of the population cannot swim. Children do not do sport for fun in China. Yes, more adults are going to the gym but if you look around these gyms you’ll notice the most popular form of exercise is walking on the treadmill and exercise classes are a joke. The idea of working up a sweat and getting out of breath and tired is not the goal of exercise in China, particularly for women. Often the gyms have no aircon either so working out in the summer is an utter b*tch.

    In China you will not see Chinese people out jogging or cycling like you do in Japan or Britain or the US. When I used to go out running people would openly laugh and look confused.

    China success at the Olympics is irritating because the whole nation takes it on as evidence of their superiority (believe it or not, Chinese people believe they are genetically superior to foreigners) and rising power

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