How China’s ‘whole nation’ system works

China’s Soviet-style sports system China has changed dramatically since it began reforming its Communist system three decades ago. But one vestige of Soviet-style central planning remains in its “juguo” or “whole nation” sports system.

By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai

1:04PM BST 18 Jul 2011

Under the “whole nation” system, China roots out talented young children and puts them in special academies from as young as four years old.

If they are able to progress, athletes who make the cut are put into a relentless training programme, filled with targets they must regularly hit, and paid by the government a monthly wage of between 1,000 yuan and 3,000 yuan a month (£96 to £288).

Each year, the best athletes are sent to national training centres in Beijing, where they compete to enter China’s national team. If they succeed, they will move with their families into the training centre and live there all year round.

Outsiders who have glimpsed inside the Chinese National Gymnastics centre, like Sir Matthew Pinsent, have been dismayed by what they saw.

“I know it is gymnastics and that sport has to start its athletes young,” he said, before the Beijing games. “But I have to say I was really shocked. I do think those kids are being abused.” One note, found pinned to the wall of the training centre before the Beijing Olympics simply read: “Leaders put pressure on us, subordinates put pressure on us, pressure each other. Pressure yourself. There will be no breakthrough without the hardest hardship. You cannot be a champion without going through the ultimate pressure”.