Popular Western-Originated Sports in China

From ancient practices like kung fu and Taichi to contemporary activities such as badminton and table tennis, China boasts a diverse heritage of sports that have garnered global fascination.
The process of modernizing sports in China commenced in the late 19th century with the nation’s engagement with the Western world. This interaction led to the adoption of popular Western sports like football and basketball, which swiftly gained traction among the youth. Let’s learn about popular Western-originated sports in China.

The role of sports in Chinese society

Sports have exerted a profound influence on Chinese society, affecting it both socially and economically. They have not only encouraged a healthier way of life among the Chinese populace but have also emerged as a significant source of national pride.
As of 2023, China’s accomplishments in the Olympics and other prominent global sporting competitions have bolstered its national identity, fostering a feeling of unity and pride among its citizens.
While Western observers often link China with table tennis, badminton and martial arts, there’s a growing trend towards the popularity of traditionally Western sports like basketball and football.

Popularity of sports in China as of December 2023

Source: Statista


Football, referred to as soccer in many regions, holds significant affection in China. The nation boasts its professional league named the Chinese Super League (CSL), which has garnered notable attention on the global stage in recent times. Notably, Chinese women’s soccer athletes have been hailed as national icons, achieving a remarkable milestone by reaching the World Cup final in 1999, marking a significant advancement for the country.
And since football is widely embraced in China, top clubs frequently include stops in the country during pre-season tours. Of all westner soccer players, Messi is the most popular. Last summer, in fact, mainland China witnessed fervent support for Messi following a friendly match between the Argentine national team and Australia in Beijing.

Argentina vs Australia football match in Beijing, source: Reuters


Basketball holds a prominent position among the most favored sports in China. The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is the nation’s premier professional league and attracts the attention of numerous world-class players, including former NBA champion Stephon Marbury. Speaking of the latter, the NBA (National Basketball Association) is the most popular Western basketball championship in China. And, according to some research, Steph Curry holds the title of most popular NBA star on Weibo, while James Harden takes the top spot on Douyin. Furthermore, basketball has made notable appearances in numerous popular Chinese films, such as “Kung Fu Dunk.”

NBA champion Stephen Curry, source: Kajot Poker


Athletics in China showcases a diverse array of talent, highlighting the country’s commitment to excellence in sports. Chinese athletes have made their mark in several disciplines, breaking records and winning Olympic gold medals. Liu Xiang, a phenomenal hurdler and former world record holder, is a prime example of China’s athletic prowess. 
The sport’s popularity is so broad that national championships and international competitions, including the IAAF Diamond League, attract millions of Chinese spectators.
If the country continues to cultivate talent and invest in the development of athletics, the future of the sport in China remains promising.


Swimming holds a prominent role in China’s sports scene, attracting millions to both competitive and recreational pursuits. Embraced by individuals of all ages, it promotes health and fitness.
Chinese swimmers have garnered international acclaim, exemplified by figures like Sun Yang clinching Olympic gold medals and setting world records. Events like the FINA World Aquatics Championships captivate audiences across China, sparking significant enthusiasm.
As Chinese swimmers continue to excel on the global stage, the sport’s prominence within the country is poised to rise, solidifying its status as a fundamental component of China’s sporting landscape.


Tennis is experiencing rapid growth in China, emerging as one of the most popular sports with an estimated 14 million regular players. The Chinese government has played a pivotal role in promoting tennis, especially since its full recognition as an Olympic sport, channeling investments into its development. The nation’s economic advancement and the expanding middle class view tennis not only as a recreational activity but also as a means to enhance social standing within families.
With rising stars like Zhang Zhizhen and Zheng Qinwen leading the charge, a cohort of Chinese tennis players made significant breakthroughs during the 2023 season, propelling the country into a formidable presence on the global tennis stage.


China boasts world champions in several games and is home to some of the largest esports companies in the world. With the highest number of active participants in the field, China established esports as a recognized sport in the early 2000s, setting a pioneering example.
The nation holds the title of the world’s largest eSports market, boasting a revenue of $10.6 billion in the initial half of 2023, with about 490 million players. And, projections indicate a substantial surge in this market revenue, anticipated to soar to an impressive US$497.6 million by 2024.
The surge in mobile esports is a key driver of the industry’s growth in China. Popular titles such as League of Legends on PC, along with mobile games such as Honor of Kings and the domestically adapted PUBG Mobile variant, Peacekeeper Elite, enjoy immense popularity within the nation.

To conclude, in recent years the landscape of sports in China has undergone a remarkable transformation, propelling the nation into the ranks of sporting giants. Government initiatives aimed at fostering sports development have borne fruit, evident in the outstanding performances of Chinese athletes across various disciplines. Moreover, sports frequently serve as a conduit for fostering national pride and solidarity in China. Notably, prestigious events such as the Olympics and the Asian Games have graced Chinese soil, serving as platforms to spotlight the nation’s cultural richness and accomplishments.
Looking ahead, the horizon appears promising, with ample prospects for further investment and advancement in the realm of sports.

Long Advisory digital marketing agency in China

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In recent years, the Chinese economy has experienced significant growth and development. Following the global crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, China made