The past few years have not been easy for Dutch soccer club ADO. The struggling club, that is over 110 years old, announced a takeover by Chinese company United Vansen (合力万盛), owned by Hui Wang (王辉), in the summer of 2014. Although the club was initially hopeful about United Vansen’s promised investments in the club, it soon turned out that payments failed to appear.
At the start of 2015, the club finally did receive money from United Vansen – but the affair had received a lot of media attention and relations between ADO and the Chinese owner were already going sour, especially when payments were again delayed later in 2015.
Although Wang allegedly said the delayed payments were caused by “cultural misunderstandings”, the problems were still not solved in 2016. The Dutch court has now ruled on January 5th that Hui Wang has to pay ADO nearly 2.5 million euros ($2.6 million) as part of his 2015 takeover.
Wang was not present in court on Thursday, nor did he or his lawyers attend the hearing that took place a week earlier.
Although the ‘Sino-Dutch soccer war’ is making headlines in Dutch media and international newspapers, it is receiving little media attention in China. In the Netherlands, many people are puzzled about Wang’s moves and his motivations: what went wrong?
THE CHINESE SOCCER DREAM
“Of course we are borrowing the chicken for its eggs.”
China has great ambitions when it comes to soccer. The Chinese soccer dream is such a priority that the National Development and Reform Commission, Chinese Football Association, and the Sports Bureau and Ministry of Education have set out a visionary plan to produce one of the world’s strongest soccer teams by 2050.
China has the soccer ambition, the soccer fans, and the money – but still lags behind when it comes to successful clubs and players. To become a bigger player in the world of football, Chinese president Xi Jinping made soccer a national priority in 2015; not coincidentally the same year that Hui Wang officially took over ADO Den Haag.
In a 2016 interview with Chinese newspaper Da Gongbao, Hui Wang was clear that his priorities were on the development of Chinese soccer, and not necessarily on saving Dutch ADO: “Of course we are borrowing the chicken for its eggs,” he said: “We are borrowing the European soccer environment to cultivate some cream of the crop players.”
Learning from international clubs and players is seen as an important way for China to become a more relevant football nation. On social media platform Sina Weibo, Chinese sports journalist Shi Qingsheng posted a picture of Hui Wang (l) in Holland, stating: “By Hui Wang going to The Hague (..) we can better serve Chinese football and Chinese soccer fans. We all know that China’s soccer is still in the lower levels.”
On Weibo, some netizens are clear about the fact that Wang’s plans to take over ADO had to do with his ambitions to bring Chinese players to Europe. When that did not happen, the investments stayed away.
AIRING DIRTY LAUNDRY
“In the Dutch media, this ‘China nightmare’ was blamed on Wang.”
Dutch club ADO had different dreams for the club’s future than Wang had. According to Voetbal International, one of Wang’s dreams was to bring a Chinese player to ADO and have him featured in a real-life soap on his Dutch soccer adventure.
But ADO was not willing to take the player in, since his level was far beneath that of the general soccer players at the club. It made Wang suffer a loss of face – he had to cancel all plans for the upcoming Chinese TV program.
One of Wang’s alleged bigger plans was to turn ADO into a breeding ground for Chinese players, after which they could be sold with profits. But these dreams were also thwarted by the Dutch council of ADO, that did not want to turn ADO into a Chinese “trading house.”
Another issue that caused friction was the quality of Dutch trainers sent to China. One of the many ways in which Wang hoped to use ADO for the advancement of China’s soccer dream was that ADO trainers would travel to China to train young Chinese players. But according to experts in 2015, the trainers that were sent there were practically ‘unemployed’ and relatively unknown – not what United Vansen had hoped for.
One of the ADO trainers who did travel to China, the 28-year-old Feenstra, said he “went through hell” there as he turned out to be on the wrong visa and was taken into custody. In the Dutch media, this “China nightmare” was blamed on Wang. Two other ADO trainers returned to the Netherlands within three weeks after their arrival because they found the working conditions in China too straining.
All of these reports on late payments and “China nightmares” made headlines in the Dutch media. United Vansen shared its unhappiness about the status quo on its official Weibo page in late 2015, when they released an offical statement refuting any “fake news” about Hui Wang’s delayed payments to Dutch soccer club ADO.
TWO CHICKENS, NO EGGS
“Why do they turn me into their opponent after I have invested my money into them?”
ADO’s critical approach towards Wang, the fact that they shared their dirty laundry with the Dutch press, and their unwillingness to adhere to their owner’s wishes, eventually hurt their relations beyond repair.
“Why do they turn me into their opponent after I have invested my money into them?”, Wang told RTL News in 2016.
All in all, it seems like the roots of this Sino-Dutch ‘soccer war’ can be found in the fact that the two parties, both on the Dutch and the Chinese side, were more concerned about their own goals than about those of the other.
The Dutch ADO, for 98% owned by a Chinese party, was not willing to let Chinese influences into their club – in that way ADO was also “using the chicken for its eggs.” Wang was working on his Chinese soccer dream, and not on ADO’s future.
In the end nor ADO nor Wang found the golden eggs they were hoping for. United Vansen can still appeal the Dutch court’s verdict in the days to come. It is not yet clear if they will do so.
On Weibo, the few Chinese netizens who talk about the soccer conflict seem divided. Some scold ADO for their actions, while others blame Wang for “ruining” the Dutch club.
The Chinese newspaper who covered the issue only did so briefly. As big as the ADO-Wang affair might have become in the Netherlands, for many Chinese, it is simply nothing more than a business deal gone wrong.
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“What’s Modernisation?” – Chinese State Media Explain China’s ‘New Era’ With a Rap Video
No three-and-a-half-hour speech, but a three-and-a-half minute video explains China’s new strategies in this latest propaganda clip on social media.
The much-anticipated 19th Party Congress opened last Wednesday in Beijing with Xi Jinping’s three-and-a-half-hour speech on “Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (新时代中国特色社会主义思想), which presented the Party’s new concepts, thoughts and strategies – with Xi himself at its core.
Shi-jiu-da (十九大, ‘big 19’) is the popular abbreviation for the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China. This Plenum is held once every five years and is the highest level political meeting in the Chinese calendar. The meeting is also a big topic on Chinese social media; the Weibo hashtag for the ‘big 19’ event #十九大# was viewed over 3,6 billion times on Friday.
As with previous major political gatherings, speeches and rhetoric are not the only means by which the Party and state media seek to convey their message to the wider population. A video titled “What is modernization? Let us tell you in a rap!” (“现代化”是什么化？一段嘻哈告诉你!) is the latest in a series produced by state broadcaster CCTV. The video is being spread through social media.
The clip (click link or see embedded video below), that lays out the government’s stategies for China’s ‘new era’ through rap music with bright graphics, was widely distributed on Chinese social media this week by various media platforms and institutions, from the Economic Observer (@经济观察报) to the Ministry of Public Security.
The translation of the video’s full text* is as follows:
This October in Beijing
…will all be arriving!
The time has come for 十九大（shi-jiu-da）
Listen out for the important voices
十九大 (shi-jiu-da) let’s say a little about it
There is a lot of information here
So, listen out carefully and I’ll speak slowly
In the past, China has always advanced courageously
As we have said before,
When difficult problems are solved then great things can be established!
Our nation is full of vigor and vitality!
Anti-corruption efforts are strong
Many tigers have been taken down
From rocket lift-offs to submarine exercises,
Technology is changing our lives
Haha, Haha, Haha,
As I’m going to show up next, we have plans going forward…
[Xi Jinping’s voice speaking:]
By the time we reach the middle period of this century, we will have built a modern socialist state which is rich and powerful, democratic, civilised, and harmonious. In this way, we will have realized the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people.
But, building in accordance with the needs of modernization
What even is modernization?
Let me tell you:
[End of rap, start of explanation by lecturer:]
100 years ago, Sun Yat-sen set out a blueprint for modernization in ‘Strategy for Building a Nation’: build train tracks, repair the roads, construct large ports. At that time, this was still considered fantastical and unrealistic.
But today, train lines criss-cross the whole nation! They run N-S between Beijing-Guangdong-Shanghai, as well as across the well-trodden route of Lanzhou-Chengdu-Chongqing. The length of the journey on the bullet trains just keeps reducing!
Again, at the time the People’s Republic was founded, not even a tractor could be built! Thus, building a modern, industrial socialist nation became our aim.
In 1954, the first National People’s Congress was held. This was the first time the aim of achieving the Four Modernizations was clearly referenced. In just the next few years, factory after factory was built, including those of Anshan Steel works and Changchun car manufacturers.
Our workers are powerful!
This was a song I would listen to when I was young, and hearing it I would know my dad would soon finish work for the day and so I would quickly pack away all my marbles. Entering the period of opening and reform, Deng Xiaoping named the Four Modernizations as the way to ‘Chinese Modernization’, as well as wanting to become a middle-income nation.
In the 1970s, when people married, the three major durable consumer goods were still watches, bicycles and sewing machines. In the 80s, this became fridges, color TVs, and washing machines, and by the 90s changed again into air conditioning, cameras, and camcorders.
[Xi Jinping’s voice:]
Now, information technologies such as the internet are changing with each passing day. This is leading a new revolution in society and bringing new dimensions into human lives.
A report from the 18th Party Congress, published on 8th November 2012, mentioned the ‘4 New Modernisations.’ This has led to the implementation of an innovation-driven development strategy. Over the last 5 years, the major technological developments we have made have accumulated further and further. The computing in the Sunway Taihu Light is the most advanced in the world.
The quantum satellite Mozi Hao is unparalleled. The Tiangong 2 satellite has been sent off smoothly. Each of these wondrous engineering projects is a feat of its own! What a country!
In 2013, General Secretary Xi Jinping then added one more modernization into the fold, that being to ‘continue to advance the nation’s governing system, and to modernize our governing capabilities.’
Modernisation as a whole is very impressive. Frankly speaking, only this modernization of the inner qualities of officials and organizations will enable them to govern the country and change the civilized norms.We don’t take a break from modernization!
Yeah, now that we have become a middle-class society
We have reached the most important section of our reform agenda
What are the issues that affect the lives of the middle class?
At this stage in the development of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,
People are heading in the direction of a better life
The Party must remember
This is a new beginning!
In what direction is the bullet train heading?
After 200 years, will the Chinese dream have been realized?
What expectations do Chinese families have for their future?
Will the 十九大 (shi-jiu-da) answer these questions for you?
Both the design and the genre of the new clip show some resemblance to clips launched during the Belt and Road Summit earlier this year.
On Weibo, a platform that is heavily controlled during the 19th National Congress, the video was shared hundreds of times. Although discussions on the video are limited due to current restrictions, one surprised netizen just posted: “Can I actually comment on this?!”
By Alice Mingay
* Full Text:
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China’s Latest Online Viral Game Makes You Clap for Xi Jinping
Smart propaganda – now clapping for Xi Jinping has become a competition.
The major 19th CPC National Congress started on Wednesday in Beijing with a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping that took nearly 3,5 hours.
The speech, that focused on China’s future and its rise in the world today, was repeatedly paused for the appropriate applause from the party members in the audience.
With the introduction of a new game by Tencent, people can now also clap along to Xi Jinping’s speech from their own living room. The game became an online hit on October 18. It was already played over 400 million times by 9 pm Beijing time.
The mobile game can be opened through a link that takes you to a short segment of the lengthy speech by Xi Jinping. In the short segment, President Xi mentions that it is the mission of the Communist Party of China to strive for the happiness and the rise of the Chinese people.
The app then allows you “clap” for Xi by tapping the screen of your phone as many times as you can within a time frame of 18 seconds. After completing, you can invite your friends to play along and compete with them.
The game has become especially popular on WeChat, where some users boast that they have scored a ‘clap rate’ of 1695.
If you’re up to it, you can try to clap as much as you can for Xi Jinping here (mobile only).
(Update Friday, October 20: the game link now redirects to the Tencent News site themed around the 19th Party Congress through desktop. On mobile, the game still works, and has been played over 1,2 billion times.)
Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.
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