recreational associations


recreational associations
Sports and fitness activities were governed by the State Sports Commission from the top down from 1955 until 1984, when the central government first called for the ‘societization’ (shehuihua) or grassroots development of sports through corporate and private sponsorship. Recreational associations rapidly emerged outside the Sports Commission system, funded by wealthy peasants and private entrepreneurs, families, villages, occupational groups and corporations. Defined as apolitical, they were relatively free of government control and were among the first voluntary associations to proliferate across the landscape of the emerging grassroots democracy.
They did not directly challenge the political system, but exerted subtle influence that brought about social change by working around it. Competitive bodybuilding became the first sport to develop outside the state-supported sports system, and over time it contributed to greater openness concerning the display and aesthetic appreciation of the human body, resulting in the first officially sanctioned public appearance of bikini-clad women bodybuilders in 1986. In 1988, China’s first post-1949 football (soccer) fan club received official approval; as the majority of members were young, male and working class (or unemployed), this amounted to the organization of a working-class voice that was publicly expressed in the popular media. In the new millennium, as the singular role of the work unit in social life began to dissipate, recreational associations played a central role in organizing a social life between strangers in the new ‘communities’ (shequ), consisting of residence complexes (xiaoqu) not attached to any single work unit (danwei) (see residential districts (urban)).
SUSAN BROWNELL

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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