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The Myth of China’s Gold Medals

China won many medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games. It was leading the gold medal count for many days until the last day when the U.S. took over the #1 position by a count of 39 to China’s 38. China also ranked #2 on the total medal count.

Beijing’s first Olympics Games debut was in 1984. At that time, China also surprised the world. It won 15 gold medals and 32 total medals.

Since 2000, it has always stayed in the ranks of the top three countries having the most medals.

Before Beijing, the former Soviet Union had been a dominating Olympics medal harvesting country. Its medal count dropped after the communist regime collapsed in 1991.

So, does that mean the communist countries have a good sports system for their people?

Not really.

The secret sauce assuring the communist country’s medal success is its “sports with the full nation’s support (举国体育)” policy and “career athlete” practice in selected less-competive fields.

In addition to table tennis, badminton, and gymnastics in which the Chinese are quite good, Beijing has selected some fields which have fewer competitions: women’s weightlifting, diving, and air rifle/pistol (the Westerners prefer the true rifles or pistols). In general, these games are not that popular in the West and the Western players are mere amateurs. But they are the “gold medal” sports for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to harvest. Beijing devoted its national power to develop career athletes and could thus dominate these fields.

However, these sports are not popular in China either. Many sports that China is good at are only what its athletes are good at; they have no connection to the Chinese people.

To the CCP, a sports game is just a tool to harvest gold medals to boost nationalism and glorify the party. Encouraging general participation or improving public fitness is irrelevant.

As a result, both the athletes and the general public have become the victims of the practice of sports politicization.

China has a systematic state-controlled pyramid structure for athletes. Every city has youth sports schools. Their mission is to identify the potential stars from those in the elementary and middle schools and then to develop them.

The outstanding performers can join youth teams or sports schools, becoming semi-career athletes.

The next level is to join the provincial team. By the time this happens, the athletes have become career athletes; the state employs them and they receive salaries.

Then the best athletes are picked to join the national team.

Most of the national teams and many provincial teams keep the athletes in training camps all year around. The team manages everything for the athletes, from how to train to what to eat, and even when to sleep. The team also monitors the athletes’ moods and psychological swings. Dating is usually forbidden.

With the responsibility of bringing gold medals home to boost national pride, the national teams receive the best resources: the best coaches, the best doctors, the best supplies, and the best food.

This all sounds good to the athletes – they do not need to worry about anything; just train and win. But is that truly the case?

First, the Chinese athletes need to learn to make personal sacrifices for the “needs of the state (国家需要).” In other words, they need to submit themselves to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) arrangement for them.

If the CCP “needs” them to keep training, they have to stay in the training camp and not celebrate the Chinese New Year with their family. If the CCP “needs” someone to mimic the playing style of foreign competitors, some athletes have to give up their dreams of the gold to become accompanying trainers; and if the CCP “needs” certain players to advance to the next round of the game, his teammate has to lose out to the one who is picked to be the winner.

Those who do not follow directions will face tough punishment. In the World Table Tennis Championships Game in 1987, the Chinese women’s ping pong team told He Zhili to lose to her teammate Guan Jianhua in the semifinal games, thinking that Guan had a better chance to beat the Korean rival in the final game. She didn’t follow directions. Instead she won the semifinal game with a straight 3:0. She was reprimanded immediately for such a betrayal. The ping pong team gave little support to her at the championship game. She won the game 3:0 by her own efforts. The team then took her name out from the 1988 Olympics Games team. She then left China to play in Japan. {1}

The “needs of the state” argument is so powerful that in most of the cases, athletes have to compete even if they are injured. Because the CCP has invested so much in them, when their payback time comes, they have to do it at any cost. China’s best 110-meter hurdler and former world record holder, Liu Xiang, suffered an injury to his foot before the Beijing Olympics Games in 1988. The CCP needed a gold medal from him, so Liu was not allowed to skip the game to recover from his injury. Instead, he was given a pain killer injection and had to continue training. Liu showed up at the Olympics field, but his injury still forced him to quit the competition. {2}

What to see a Chinese “Simone Biles” pulling herself out of a competition? Don’t even think about it.

Second, many Chinese athletes are the victims of performance-enhancing drugs. The CCP forces them to take the drugs. In 2017, a former doctor for the Chinese Olympic team revealed that in the 1980s and 90s, more than 10,000 athletes were involved in a systematic performance‑enhancing drugs program across all sports. Every one of China’s medal in major tournaments in that period might be a result of these drugs. {3}

Huang Xiaomin, the first Chinese to win the swimming Olympics medal, said that the national team forced them to take the drugs regularly and only stopped when it was near the game to avoid the drugs being detected. Many girls have been drugged to look like men, with prominent laryngeal nodes, thick voices, and muscle types or sweat pores like men. The drug gave the girls menstrual disorders, increasing masculinity, and more stiffening of muscles. {4}

This practice has continued. China’s swimming team has been haunted by these drug scandals for the past two decades. Its star swimmer Sun Yang, refused to cooperate with three antidoping officials who had traveled to his home in China to retrieve blood and urine samples in 2018. Sun broke his blood-sample vials in front of these officials. He was banned for eight years from competition. Who broke the vials?

Third, the biggest problem comes after retirement. These career athletes do not receive much school education or life skill training. They had the best training and best care, but it was only in their sport and in nothing else.

So when they retire, they find that they lack the skills to fit in with society. Getting a coaching job might be the best option for them. Otherwise they may struggle in making a living.

Zou Chunlan, a national champion of women’s weightlifting, had only a 3rd grade education. She worked as a low-skilled laborer at a bath. She suffered the consequences of performance-enhancement drugs. Her voice became low like a male, and she was bothered with a moustache. {5}

Cai Li, a men’s weight-lifting champion at the Asian Games, worked as a gatekeeper. Zhang Shangwu, who won two gold medals in gymnastics at the World University Games in 2001, was arrested multiple times for theft. He was even seen begging at the subway station in Beijing. {6}

Zhuang Duoduo, a National Judo Champion, retired after developing asthma. She posted on Weibo, “Sometimes I laid in bed, unable to breathe at all, due to asthma. I don’t know what I should do now. I learned Judo when I was small but now no one cares about me when I’m sick! Please help me. We give our best to the country and fight for the country’s glory, but where’s the sympathy for me (when I suffer)?” {7}

The medalists in China are just like flowers: The CCP gives them the best fertilizer to create the most beautiful blossoms from them; then it discards them when they wither. In the eyes of the CCP, every human being is just a piece of “thing, something inanimate” to serve the party. The athletes’ mission is to bring glory to the party. The game is over once they stop competing.

Even the champions who are at the top of their career in the athlete pyramid may not have a happy ending. One can imagine what life would be like for those at the middle or bottom of the sports pyramid. Yet they are the majority athletes.

The general public in China is another victim of the CCP’s sports propaganda. The CCP has made gold medals a prominent tool to promote patriotism and to glorify the CCP. Its politicization of sports has gone so much further that the general public are now used to the news of Chinese winning and cannot accept a loss.

If unfortunately China misses the gold medal that it thinks it should get, the athletes feel guilty and the sports fans become the “wolf warriors,” scolding the Chinese athletes, blaming the referees, and insulting the winner.

At the Tokyo Olympics, when China didn’t win the men’s team gold gymnastics medal, the four gymnasts who played in that game apologized, “(We are) very sorry to everyone.” Liu Shiwen, the female ping pong player who won the silver medal in the mixed double game apologized too. {8}

The Chinese sports fans are merciless. After the China’s men’s double badminton pair lost to the Taiwanese team in the final game, fans cursed the Chinese players brutally, saying that they played like “s—t.”

After the Japanese players defeated the Chinese team and won the gold medal at the ping pong mixed double game, the Chinese fans “battled overseas”: They went to the Japanese players’ social media sites (outside of China) to post comments to insult and bully them. {9}

When Japanese gymnast Daiki Hashimoto beat China’s Xiao Ruopeng to win the men’s all-around gymnastics gold medal, the Chinese sports fans couldn’t take it at all. They overwhelmingly blamed the judges for giving a low score to Xiao on the horizonal bar, despite the fact that the judges explained that they took 0.3 points out for Xiao based on the rule as he failed to salute the judges. The Chinese didn’t buy it. They also blamed the judges for not deducting enough on Hashimoto’s landing mistake in the vault.

One Weibo comment said, “Maybe before punishing Xiao for not saluting, the judges should have asked themselves whether they deserved Xiao’s respect.”

Another Weibo comment (from X) said, “Were the judges blind or were they stupid because they drank too much radioactive water in Japan?”

The Chinese trolls flooded the comments of Hashimoto’s social media account and tagged him in photos with cruel memes and insults. The harassment was so enormous that Hashimoto activated an Instagram feature to forbid strangers from tagging him in posts.

The Chinese fans’ accusation spread everywhere, including Chinese news publications not supporting the “patriotic” side enough. In a headline, Tencent Sports was forced to apologize for referring to Hashimoto as a “gifted” gymnast. “We are sincerely sorry about the inappropriate wording,” the news outlet wrote. {10}

The Chinese wolf warrior also bullies Taiwanese celebrities for supporting Taiwan players. They called Taiwanese celebrity “Younger S” the “Taiwan separatist” since she praised Taiwan badminton players who won the gold by beating China. Four Chinese companies immediately announced that they stopped an endorsement contract with her. Jolin Tsai, a Taiwanese singer and movie star, reposted the post of a Taiwanese female badminton player and “liked” the news about Taiwanese male badminton double players. Then the Chinese fans asked her to “stop coming to China” and demanded that she take a stand on the issue of “Taiwan independence.” {11}

Overall, the CCP politicizes gold medals to glorify the party. In doing so, not only does it ruin the athletes’ lives; it also corrupt the sports fans’ morality and their character.

A sarcastic statement has spread in China: “Ask only what you can do for the country but don’t ask what your country can do for you.” That’s exactly how the CCP treats its athletes.


{1} Sohu, “Remember He Zhili and Those ‘Betrayal’ Players.”
{2} CCTV, “Four Mysteries of Liu Xiang’s Quitting the Game,” August 19, 2008.
{3} The Guardian, “China ‘compulsorily doped’ athletes in 1980s and 90s, claims whistleblower,” Oct 22, 2017.
{4} Epoch Times, “Huang Xiaomin, The CCP Forced Athletes to Take Performance-Enhancement Drugs,” August 3, 2021.
{5}, “Nine Gold Medals in Six Years, How Is National Champion Zou Chunlan?”
{6} Sohu, “Eleven Gold Medalists Had No Way to Support Themselves, Regretting Going to the Sports Field,” July 19, 2011.
{7}, “Lessons Learned from Zhuang Duoduo’s Exposure of the Dark Work,” April 4, 2013.
{8} Epoch Times, “Why Chinese Athletes Have a Different Attitude to The Gold Medal,” July 30, 2021.
{9} Epoch Times, “The Strange Scenes on the CCP’s Olympics Games,” August 3, 2021.
{10}, “Japanese gymnast targeted by Chinese trolls after Olympic win,” July 29, 2021.
{11} Epoch Times, “The Strange Scenes on the CCP’s Olympics Games,” August 3, 2021.