Esports diplomacy – China’s soft power building in the digital era

Wong, Donna and Meng-Lewis, Yue (2023). Esports diplomacy – China’s soft power building in the digital era. Managing Sport and Leisure, 28(3) pp. 247–269.



This study examines how China’s status as a global leader in esports reflects its pursuit of global ascendancy, through exercising soft power attained from esports diplomacy as a power resource.

Research for this study was based on textual analysis where public discourse on esports in China is examined. We then proposed an esports diplomacy model and examined how esports is used to achieve diplomatic outcomes for China.

Soft power was an important way forward for China pursuit of global power status. Esports is utilised as resources to engage, inform and create a favourable image of China among foreign publics and countries. The explicit and implicit outcomes generated through esports diplomacy, provided resources for this soft power quest.

Practical Implications
This study encourages thinking on how esports can be used as a means to achieve diplomatic outcomes for governments and regimes, rather than a mere economic and/or entertainment tool for financial gains.

Research Contribution
Besides contributing to and updating research on China’s esports landscape, this study also answer calls for academic research to expand the discourse on esports diplomacy. Theoretically, our research adds on the existing knowledge on sports diplomacy and soft power through the exploration of key elements of our proposed esports diplomacy model.

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