Martial Arts has found itself at the centre of a diplomatic push as the Chinese regime has stepped up its efforts to win over hearts and minds in the developing through their various economic and cultural outreach programs.

As one of China’s most successful cultural exports, martial arts have played a big role, as has been seen with the recent Sino-India movie collaboration on the Jackie Chan vehicle ‘Kung Fu Yoga’. But Africa too has seen an influx of Chinese money, investors, and culture in recent years.

First Africa Cup Wushu Tournament in Zambia

zambia Africa cup wushu tournament

And as well as a huge increase in the number of Kung Fu movies that can be found on African TV channels, real-life Kung Fu is also gaining traction amongst local people too.

And the culmination of this rapid growth will be seen next August in Zambia, which will play host to the first ever Africa Cup Wushu Tournament. It is thought that competitors from around 20 different countries will travel to Zambia to compete and whilst proud that they will host this inaugural event, the Zambian Chinese Wushu Association has made no secret of their desire to win the tournament too.

Speaking to the Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, the Zambian Chinese Wushu Association President, Cui Hengwu, said “As a host nation, we want Zambia to win this tournament so we have already started preparing the athletes. We have so many athletes currently being prepared and we will pick our final team after that.”

Rapid Growth in Zambia

The Zambian Chinese Wushu Association was set up with the support of the Chinese Embassy in Zambia, as recently as 2013. Despite its relative youth, they can already boast more than 500 members in the capital city and a further 100 in the country’s central Copperbelt Province. That is a pretty rapid influx of participants which suggests the Association is doing a pretty good job of attracting people to what is a fairly new pastime.

These are considerable numbers and suggests that Zambia may indeed be well placed to succeed at the forthcoming tournament, not least because wushu training is probably far better developed there than elsewhere in Africa. But of course, China has been making similar cultural investments across Africa, so they may not have it all their own way.

Sports Infrastructure Milestone

zambia Africa cup wushu tournament

The acting Sports and Youth Minister for Zambia, Lawrence Sichalwe, told Xinhua that the new wushu training centre was “another milestone of sports infrastructure development in the country” and explained that such facilities were crucial if Zambian athletes were to be able to compete on the world stage.

However, the Chinese Ambassador to Zambia, Yang Youming was more pragmatic about the real reasons behind China’s investment. He described it as “a milestone in cementing cultural ties between the two countries” and went on to say that the introduction of martial arts in China was “one way of strengthening cultural ties between the two countries”.

New Audiences for Africa Cup Wushu Tournament

zambia Africa cup wushu tournament

Regardless of how altruistic China’s exporting of martial arts to Africa and the wider world really is, it can only be a good thing for martial arts to be exposed to these new audiences.

The Africa Cup Wushu Tournament will probably not be the highest quality Wushu event which will be held next year, but it will be a crucial step in the development of wushu in Zambia and across Africa. Competition breeds interest and excitement, which is exactly what sports need to grow in popularity.

And as long as China remains committed to the export of martial arts, the future is looking very rosy indeed for the future of these disciplines as they continue to be practised and enjoyed by whole new communities and generations.

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