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China ‘Stadium Diplomacy’ in Africa Is a ‘Win-Win’ for Football Tournament

The African Football Cup of Nations (AFCON) is a bi-annual “soccer” tournament, being held this year from Jan. 13-Feb. 11 in Côte d’Ivoire. Every other year, a select country gets to play host to teams from what are now 24 countries across the continent, with the attending diplomatic and economic windfalls. The flip side of this windfall, however, is the economic cost of stadiums, housing, and road infrastructure relating to the month-long event, a not-insignificant expense for cash-stressed African nations. This year’s event had to be postponed for six months on account of summer flooding in the host country.

While participation is limited to African countries, China is an unofficial participant in the games, through their aid to host countries in their staging of the tournament with design and construction of new stadiums. This has come to be designated “stadium diplomacy” by China-phobic press. Through this, China has replicated in goodwill something similar to what it has accomplished with the industrial infrastructure of the Belt and Road Initiative. A “win, win”—so to speak—in the world of sports.

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