Xi meets FIFA chief as China eyes a World Cup bid – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for June 14, 2017. Part of the SupChina newsletter, which packages the top business, political, and cultural news about China into a 360-degree view of the country that you can read in just a few minutes a day. Subscribe here.

On June 14, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing, amid widespread speculation that China is planning to bid for a World Cup in the near future, according to Xinhua.  

Widely known as an avid football fan, Xi said the Chinese government still attaches great significance to the sport’s development, although he noted the huge disparity between China and traditional football powerhouses in terms of both the sport’s domestic popularity and competitiveness of the teams.

Although Chinese state media’s coverage of the talks didn’t include any mention of the World Cup, rumors have been circulated recently that China will apply to host it in either 2030 or 2034. At the Chinese Foreign Ministry regular press conference on June 12, when asked whether China would officially announce a bid for the 2030 World Cup, spokesperson Lu Kang 陆慷 answered (in Chinese), “China certainly wants to seek greater cooperation with FIFA and other countries in the field of football. Hosting the World Cup has been a dream for many Chinese. I also hope that day will come sooner.”

In a qualifying match for the 2018 World Cup on June 13, the Chinese national football team tied 2-2 with Syria, leaving the aspiring football giant at the bottom of its Asian qualifying Group A with only two games left. Online, Chinese football fans seemed resigned to the team’s poor performance. One commenter on the social media platform Weibo wrote (in Chinese), “It’s normal for them to lose. But if they win, they will boast about their victory for a year.”