The Chinese public is more interested in basketball than football according to recent opinion polls, but their government already has plans underway to change this.

Chinese investors recently acquired a 13% stake in CMC/Citic Capital, the parent company of Manchester City. Over the past two years, football clubs in France, England, Holland, Spain and the Czech Republic have sold shares to Chinese investors.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has openly professed that he’s a football fan. Now, there seems to be a state-backed initiative to popularize the game in China.

Experts say the sudden interest in football may be linked to China’s desire to look good on the world stage as a benevolent super-power. By popularising the game at home, and building a Chinese football fan following, Chinese firms will also use football clubs to establish a commercial base in Europe.

By 2025, China hopes to have a domestic sports industry worth $850 billion, and football has a huge part to play in reaching this goal. Considering that the Chinese doggedly pursue any goals they set their sights on, it won’t be far in the future that China will be accepted and respected as part of the international football community.