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From Beijing to Rio : rebranding China via the modern Olympic Games / Xiufang (Leah) Li

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Xiufang Leah, Li

The need to reform China’s state-run sports system and doubts about using the Games to brand China has arisen to the public’s attention. This paper investigates whether the role of the Olympics as a part of Beijing’s soft power strategy in branding China has encountered changes under Xi Jinping’s leadership. It draws on the theory of competitive identity and uses a content analysis framing approach to analyse data sourced from China Daily during the three most recent Olympic Games. The findings show that the Olympics are adopted to help rebrand China through the sectors of competitive identity, including export brands and culture. The Games switches from acting as an approach to draw attention to China’s historic victimhood and economic achievement, to building the emotional attributes of the China brand via demonstrating Beijing’s adherence to the international shared values characterised by Olympic Spirit, innovation and cooperation. This is evidenced by the constructed frames of gold fever, Olympic spirit, rebrand made-in-China and sports innovation. The absence of reports on human rights, environment and product safety suggests that Beijing’s goal to achieve a sustainable growth of the brand and acquire enduring soft power on the international stage should rely on building credible governance.

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