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Farewell? Chinese men's national basketball team!

10 Sep 2023

Last weekend, the Chinese men's national basketball team suffered a 21-point defeat to the Philippines in their concluding World Cup game. With a group score of 1-4, their tournament journey ended, and they once more face the sting of missing the Olympics. In contrast, the Japanese men's national basketball team, overshadowed by China for over four decades, proudly advanced to the Olympics with a 3-2 group score, besting several formidable European and American squads. A week on, as passions calm, the initial criticisms have given way to profound regret and a sense of helplessness. Regrettably, the Chinese men's national basketball team appears to be treading a path previously walked by their soccer counterparts, facing widespread censure. While many focus on individual players, coaches, the Basketball Association's leadership, selection processes, the CBA league system, or even the entire training paradigm, I suggest adopting a broader economic lens.


As someone grounded in economics and statistics, I lean on pertinent data to form conclusions and employ an economic lens to forecast future trends. First, in assessing the physical prowess of Chinese athletes, it's best to compare them to the East Asian demographic, notably Japan and South Korea. Second, from a population standpoint, among the 14 nations with populations surpassing 100 million, China sits 2nd, with Japan at 11th (South Korea, with a population of 50 million, is 27th). This implies that in terms of raw talent, Japan is most comparable to China. Third, I assert that sports performance—whether in basketball or soccer—correlates with a nation's economic standing and societal awareness. Bearing these points in mind, I aim to juxtapose the feats of Japanese men's basketball and soccer teams against their economic trajectory, setting them alongside China's, in hopes of unearthing patterns and insights.


Consider Japanese men's soccer. Their performance during Japan's swift economic ascent from 1970 to 1990 was hardly stellar. By all metrics—qualifications, matches, or outcomes—China outdid them.

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