First cricket, now golf
People who comment on and try to explain politics often use sports analogies. That includes academics and teachers. Yesterday, I used an article about cricket to make a point about the difficulty of understanding things (like government and politics) outside of our own frames of reference.
Today, I noticed an article about golf that could become a teaching tool. When the first Chinese golf course was built back in '84, I used it as an example of how much things had changed there after the death of Mao Zedong in '76. I also reported to my students in 1990, when there were reports that the disgraced leader Zhao Ziyang was seen golfing near Beijing. I was trying to point out that being out of power in the '90s was very different from being out of power during the Cultural Revolution.
Today's article, from Asian Times Online, offers the opportunity to discuss several of the major policy decisions facing the decision-makers in China today. If this excerpt looks promising, ask your students to
- read the whole thing
- identify the policy issues discussed or implied
- suggest where in the Chinese state decisions about those issues are likely to be made and
- hypothesize about what policies are likely to be made
China's poor take a swing at golf
"Playing golf has become a symbol of the newly rich and elite in China and as such it has also become a target of public anger and criticism amid a widening wealth gap in the nation.
"In the name of educating the social elite, many prestigious universities are beginning to make golf an essential course for students in certain majors and are even building golf courses on their campuses for training purposes. But in the face of fierce public criticism, some institutions, such as elite Peking University, have had to scrap their golf plans...
"Critics say the universities should devote their scarce resources to education for the needy, instead of on a luxury sport for the rich.
"Golf may no longer be regarded as a sport that is exclusively for the rich in the West, but it certainly still is in China. All but two of the country's 300 golf courses are luxury country clubs that provide services including dining, hotels and caddies.
"At the Shanghai Sheshan Golf Club... a membership costs 1.45 million yuan (US$181,250), about 10 years' salary for an IT professional, or about 100 years' income for a migrant worker...
"Despite the skyrocketing membership prices, golf has become trendy among the country's rich...
"New golf courses have been popping up everywhere in recent years, prompting the central government to impose a moratorium on golf-course construction in 2004 to protect the country's scarce land resources. The order, however, has not been taken seriously by regional governments trying to boost their local economies...
"Despite the controversy, golf is becoming increasingly popular among college students, who either regard it as a new, healthy sport or an entrance ticket to the business world where deals are often clinched on golf courses...
"With only 1.4 mu [0.25 acre] of farmland per capita, the Chinese government also worries that golf courses will take away too much land and water resources, with a standard golf course occupying 40 to 50 hectares of land, and using 3,000 cubic meters of water every day..."