Why is China so Good at Badminton?

China has been a dominating force at badminton

With the kind of record China has in world badminton it is no surprise one question which is often asked by fans is this; why is China so brilliant in the sport of badminton? What do they differently? Well, below, we try and dig deeper into this and explain the genesis of China’s dominance in badminton.

To begin with, if you are wondering whether China is really the leading country in the world of badminton, you only need to scroll down here to get the statistics from the various top events around. Here’s a summary of what China have achieved in badminton over the last few decades.

What Have China Achieved in Badminton?

China’s showing in the world of badminton can be noted from the way they have performed in Olympics, team events like Thomas Cup, Uber Cup an Sudirman Cup and other top badminton competitions like the BWF World Championships. At the Olympics, China have won 18 of the 34 gold medals on offer so far, 24 out of 32 at the team events and 66 golds at the World Championships including three occasions where they made a clean slate.

Here’s a slightly more in-depth description of what China has done in the badminton world so far.

China in Olympics Badminton

China’s dominance in the world of badminton can be underlined in many ways including their performance at the Olympics.

Since 1992, when badminton made it first ever appearance at the Olympics, China has won a total of 41 medals, which is greater than the sum total of the medals won by the second-best and third-best teams – Indonesia and South Korea. (check the Olympics badminton medal tally here)

Even more impressive is China’s tally of gold medals in Olympics badminton, having won 18 of the 34 golds on offer between 1992 and 2016. What this implies is they have won more golds than the total of the golds won by all other countries put together in this sport.

China in Thomas, Uber & Sudirman Cup

Their stellar performances in badminton aren’t restricted to Olympics alone though. Take the example of the three major team events in the sport; the Thomas Cup, Uber Cup and Sudirman Cup.

Thomas Cup is the men’s team event in which China has won six golds in the previous eight competitions starting from 2004. The women’s team event Uber Cup has China winning nine of the previous 11 golds while in the mixed team competition of Sudirman Cup, they have clinched 11 golds in the last 13 editions.

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Chinese Players at Other Top Badminton Events

Some of the other badminton competitions include World Championships and other one-off events like the World Cup which was last played in 1997.

Over the years since its inception at the World Championships at badminton, Chinese players have won 66 gold medals to the second-placed Indonesia’s 23. Denmark (10.5), South Korea (10) and Japan (6) are the next three on that list.

China is also the only country to have completed a clean sweep of all the gold medals on offer at a World Championships, having done it thrice so far. They achieved this feat in 1987, 2010 and 2011.

In short, there is no two ways China is the best badminton-playing country by some distance over a consistent period of time and it’s interesting to dig deep into why.

So Why is China This Brilliant at Badminton?

There is a plethora of reasons why Chinese players dominate the global badminton scene and these can be summarized as follows.

  • Excellent Government Funding
  • Solidly Organized System
  • Fanatic Following
  • Higher Competition
  • Massive Player Base
  • Badminton Culture
  • World-Class Structured Coaching
  • Clinical Nature Helps

Here’s a more detailed explanation on how Chinese badminton players rule the roost in the world.

Government Funding Help

There are very few countries whose government invests as much funding in a sport as the Chinese government does to badminton.

What this means is there’s enough money in the sport to take care of the players’ lodging, food and training at the lower rungs of the sport and that in turn means badminton players in China don’t have to dig too deep about such essentials and instead focus solely on their game.

Athletes around the world have been known to be attracted to a sport which also takes care of their financial needs and with the kind of monetary assistance the Chinese government provides to players, it comes as no surprise more and more players take to badminton.

Solidly Organized System

According to former Indian shuttler Aparna Popat, China hosts “more than 3,000 government-run sports schools, 20 major programs and 200 smaller programs” which have assisted in producing every Chinese athlete who has participated in Olympics.

And this is just the beginning. Each of these are overlooked by excellent coaches, who are trained to get the best out of their players, and develop a different training style for different players based on individual needs.

What makes this even more potent is this ‘formula’ is heavily guarded and it’s tough to understand how exactly the players are instilled their perfections. As a result, it’s tough to re-formulate it elsewhere for other countries, unlike in most other sports where coaches are often foreign and styles and methods exchanged across countries.

Fanatic Following

Two of the most followed sports in China are badminton and table tennis. While football has also shown a growing interest, the aforementioned two, including badminton has a solid following.

Now there could be other countries which have a huge chunk of their sports-loving population following badminton as well, like Denmark and England, but with China’s population currently standing at nearly 1.4 billion, it’s difficult to compete in that aspect with the country.

When a country has those many fans for a sport, it automatically gives rise to a chain effect where those watching from a very young age want to emulate their heroes and giving rise to a massive player base. Which brings us to our next point.

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Massive Player Base

According to rough estimates, there are more than 100 million people in China who play the sport of badminton. That’s more than the total population of UK and Denmark put together, two European countries who do decently at the top-level badminton (but aren’t close to performing as well as some of the other Asian countries, let alone China).

A strong player base, a mass participation like this allows a greater probability of getting things right as far as picking the best players in the sport. So much so that forget the top tier players in China, even the lower-tiered players would be good enough to make it to the main teams of some of the other countries.

Higher Competition

Continuing from the previous point about China’s massive player base, the one other advantage it leads to is creates a stronger competition at every level in the country. More the players, greater the chance of finding more players better than you and better are your chances of improving your own game as a result.

Most other countries produce one or two big-ticket players every generation, and that’s mainly because they have been trained abroad with some of the best in the business. Not all can afford that luxury, while in China, a tough competitive environment is something that’s in-bred and almost a part of their DNA.

World-Class Structured Coaching

A lot of the coaches at the top-most level of badminton are former players of repute. However, it’s not just that they were former players but the transition from being a good player to a great coach hasn’t been a tough one.

Take, for instance, the example of Li Yongbo. A former bronze medallist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the men’s doubles category, Li was the coach of the Chinese badminton national team for a period of 24 years in which he brought the country a lot of glory. This included a total of 18 gold medals in Olympics, and other tournaments.

Zhang Jun is another such case, a former two-time Olympics gold medallist who went on to become the national coach.

(as an aside, after a poor showing at the 2019 World Championships, the Chinese Badminton Association announced the hiring of Korea’s Kang Kyung Jin and Yoo Yong Sung as coaches).

Badminton Culture

All of the aforementioned combined together gives rise to a badminton culture which is tough to surmount. It’s almost like a sport like badminton (and table tennis) is a part of their DNA.

This is the reason why certain countries are good at certain sports; the All Blacks are an all-generation excellent rugby team, India is so brilliant at cricket and USA have dominated basketball over the years.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are other obvious reasons why this countries do so well in their respective sport but for sustained excellence brought about from the massive fan-base and higher competition, the one chief reason is the culture which consistently permeates into that particular sport.

It’s something that unites the country and badminton is something that does the same for China.

Clinical Nature Helps

Watch Chinese players feature at the highest level regularly and it’s easy to understand how much of a psychological dent the very presence of some of the top Chinese opposition causes to players. In the same piece above, badminton player Aparna Popat points to how the reputation of a Chinese player is bigger than the player itself, calling it a “foregone conclusion they are better than the rest”.

Even Saina Nehwal, another top-level shuttler reckons while Chinese players can be beaten she admitted it is not just tough to do that but also doubly so once they have been beaten once.

This is the kind of a mindset that is easy to fault but comes from being at the receiving end of the Chinese badminton dominance for years and it becomes more and more difficult to usurp it.

Final Words on Why China is so Good at Badminton

By now you would have realized the reason behind the Chinese dominance at badminton.

With the kind of government funding that sports like badminton get, it should come as no surprise but due credit to those taking the kind of interest in the sport along with their coaching setup which functions like a well-oiled machine at most times.

With a player base as high as the have, it has helped China produce clinical players and with strong coaching skills, the best in the business are selected to play at the highest level.

Stan Boone

I am the editor of Racket Sports World. I love my tennis, pickleball and most of the other racket sports played around the world and started this blog as my way to help other racquet sports fans even as I learn, explore and improve by connecting with them. Tweet at https://twitter.com/StanBooneTennis.

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