Industrialization and Visual Representation of Women Athletes in Socialist China: A Case Study of Cover Images in the Magazine Xin Tiyu (New sports)


Socialist China as a developing country has a unique industrial experience which has evolved in the historical context of complicated interactions of industrialization, the struggle for national sovereignty and the establishment of socialist system. That industrial experience has not only shaped the visual representations of Chinese female athletes, but also articulated “gender equality” in ways different from that in other developed countries. This article is a case study of the cover images of female athletes in the magazine Xintiyu (New sports) founded by All-China Sports Federation in July 1950. Through a systematic study and analysis of those images over the past seventy years, the article will answer these questions: what kind of female cover images has the magazine circulated over time? Was there any connection between those images and the process of industrialization in Socialist China? How did those images encode different meaning of “gender equality” over time? The article argues for the diverse meaning of “gender equality” in different social contexts, promotes mutual understanding and tolerance among different cultures, and helps make a global society with greater equality through sports media.

The research reveals that visual representation of female athletes on the covers of Xintiyu has undergone significant changes over three periods. The first period is from 1949 to 1977 when Socialist China industrialized based on the model of planned economy.The second period is from 1978 to 2001 when economic reform gradually transformed China into a Socialist market economy, Chinese industrialization was heavily influenced by international experiences, with the massive introduction of advanced technology, equipment and production lines from developed countries. The third period is from 2002 to 2019, China has entered the era of developing strategic new industries, with the logic of closing down backward industries which consumed more energy and caused much pollution and investing on sustainable new industries that were harmless to the ecology. Sports industry is environment-friendly and sustainable, and developing sports industry goes well with the new economic policy and yields high returns.

Corresponding to major economic changes in those periods, the visual representations of female athletes has gone through tremendous changes, from working class women to professional athletes and world champions, then to elite female athletes who entertain. As China entered the new millennium, sports industry has become a new favorite of the government. Yet the culture of Chinese sports has been increasingly under the influence of the capital, and the visual representations of female athletes neglected their self-perceptions, gender consciousness, and their agency in making life choices. Such negligence in media renders women athletes passive and leads to greater gender inequality in China. Future report should stay close to how women athletes look at their lives and career from different feminine perspectives. Doing so will promotes greater social tolerance to women in sports.

We will use PowerPoint to make the video. The PowerPoint will include slides, graphics, our voices and the cover pictures in the magazines which can show the typical images of Chinese female athletes in different periods vividly.