The New York Times reports that 65 million Chinese viewers watched the Li-Sharapova semi-final match; that’s a lot of viewers, and one that may help grow tennis (as well as other sports).
Last week, at a panel at Harvard, I was asked about what is happening with civil society, amidst the growing economic power of China (and Chinese people) without greater political liberalization. One thing that is worth noticing is the growth of sports participation in China, especially “leisure sports” such as tennis and golf. This has led to the formation of various “clubs,” where people gather together in pursuit of their passion – whether it be sports, chess, or auto and motorcycle adventure touring (something I would like to explore more in a future project). This leads to increased association between people in different social circles (albeit perhaps similar social classes), and is a solid foundation for civil society.
Nonetheless, sports in China is something to watch, and Li’s global visibility makes it even more of an issue.