Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Costa Rican football fans celebrate opening of stadium built by China [Guardian]

China’s charm offensive at work again as it continues to win favour with the soft power of financial incentives. The fact that they have been regularly rebuilding government buildings and infrastructure to reward its friends is not new. Surely a continued strategic move to expand its own sphere of influence overseas (Africa and South East Asia in particular, and now Central America), I think a 35,000 seater national stadium is a first. The two countries first established diplomatic ties in 2007, and it is noteworthy one two counts. First, that all this transpired so quickly in just four years. Second, that alignment has been made with a country that consistently scores top marks as the Happy Planet Index (3rd), for human development, and environmental consciousness; a far cry from its other ‘friends’ most would deem as ‘rogue states’.

And the Chinese media report – ‘Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla… said the newly built National Stadium donated by China will be a “permanent monument of friendship” between the two nations…

The National Stadium will be a permanent monument of friendship between the people of both countries and it will be a permanent symbol of improvement for the Costa Rican people, inspired by the values of the Chinese culture...’

(See ‘Stadium monument of China-Costa Rica Friendship’ in People’s Daily Online, March 26, 2011)

– – –

Costa Rican football fans celebrate opening of stadium built by China
National team plays out 0-0 draw with Argentina at rebuilt, state-of-the-art Estadio Nacional stadium
Seth Freedman in San Jose
Source – Guardian, published 30 March 2011


Costa Rica's Estadio Nacional stadium. Photograph: Alexandria Jackson/The Price of Kings © Spirit Level Film

Thousands of Costan Rican fans turned out for the reopening of a state-of-the-art football stadium donated by the Chinese government.

Around the Estadio Nacional stadium’s perimeter, laser beams lit up the night sky, acrobats hurled themselves through the air and PAs blared dance music to create a carnival atmosphere in the Sabana neighbourhood of the capital, San José.

Inside the national team played out a goalless draw with Argentina, for whom Lionel Messi was a late withdrawal through injury.

Yenia, a 27-year-old psychology student, said: “I’m delighted with what they’ve built. It’s so important for our country’s infrastructure and for Costa Rican sport.” She had no qualms about paying the $100 ticket price, despite predicting a 3-1 defeat for her team.

A tout offering tickets for 150,000 colones (roughly £190) apiece said he had sold several, testament to the excitement surrounding the match.The project was funded and built by China as thanks for Costa Rica’s former president, Óscar Arias, formally establishing ties between the two countries.

Not everyone was convinced by the gift. Jason, a 31-year-old laboratory technician, said he was “very proud of the stadium, which we could never build ourselves”, but had reservations about his government’s association with China. “I don’t like the fact that we have relations with a Communist country. Though clearly there are many financial incentives China can offer that [others] can’t.”

Axel, 47, a San José-based writer, said: “If the Chinese give, they expect something in return. We are close to agreeing a free trade deal with China, and this is nothing but a sweetener. Also, China violates human rights, whilst we defend human rights, so it is very important to China’s image to show they have a country like us on their side.”

The project has brought instant returns to the local area, with property prices rising tenfold since construction plans were announced. High-rise blocks of flats dwarf the stadium, allowing wealthy residents a view of the pitch and athletics track within.

Policemen milled about as the well-behaved crowds streamed towards the turnstiles. “We don’t expect violence, only petty theft”, said one officer, noting the contrast with the rioting that has plagued domestic football in Costa Rica in recent years. No such rivalries abound tonight, with scores of Costa Rican fans sporting Argentina shirts.

Although the match failed to live up to the hype, there are high hopes for the home team’s prospects. “We’re just going to get better and better”, declared eight-year-old Ruben.


Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Communications, Costa Rica, Economics, Guardian, Influence, International Relations, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, Strategy

2 Responses

  1. Bennett says:

    Cheers my friend. Great news to read for a guy like me. I’ll link people who read my site to your post.

    Good day to you sir!

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