Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 16, 2015

No bourgeois golf (well, less)

A former student of comparative politics wrote recently about another battle in China against the dilution of Communist culture.

China's War on Golf Courses
Last week, the Chinese government quietly went to war against golf -- or, to be more specific, against golf courses. Two-thirds of the country's approximately 600 fairways were allegedly built in violation of a 2004 national moratorium, and Beijing is no longer willing to look the other way. On Wednesday, China's Ministry of Land and Resources shut down 66 illegally built courses…

This isn't China’s first golf crackdown. In 1949, Mao Zedong deemed the game a “bourgeois” excess and had all the country's courses destroyed…

Golf crept back into China in the 1980s, together with free enterprise… Chinese businessmen… were eager to treat the sport as a networking opportunity. It was also a convenient chance for newly wealthy Chinese elites to indulge in some conspicuous consumption. (Course fees -- currently over $150 per round, on average –- have always been well beyond the means of ordinary Chinese.)…

What sparked the current crackdown? In part, it seems to be an extension of President Xi Jinping's ongoing campaign against extravagance on the part of public officials…

But Beijing also seems intent on using the golf crackdown as a way to reassert its control over the country's real estate market…

The crackdown against golf is likely also motivated by environmental concerns. Golf courses can have a negative impact on the local environment, both as a result of their extensive water demands, and… the chemicals and pesticides used to keep them green…

Shutting down 66 courses is a strong start, but it leaves behind hundreds more, as well as many dozens frozen in various stages of development. In all likelihood, some of those will remain (if only to nurse Chinese dreams that they can eventually earn gold medals in another Olympic sport). But for Chinese officials, in particular, it’s clear that the days of approving, much less enjoying, an afternoon on the course, are over.

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