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China Daily Global / 2023-11 / 20 / Page003

Experts: Sports diplomacy to boost Sino-ASEAN ties

By CAI HONG in Ningbo, Zhejiang | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-11-20 00:00

Sports diplomacy can bring China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations closer to ensure their people's physical fitness and health, officials and experts said.

When the China Institute of Sport Science proposed working together with ASEAN countries to promote physical fitness and health, it received a warm response, according to Yuan Hong, vice-president of the institute, which is affiliated with the General Administration of Sport of China.

"Sports is the common language of mankind, and health is what people all over the world aspire for," Yuan said.

At the first China-ASEAN International Conference on Physical Fitness and Health Promotion, which was held in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, on Friday and Saturday, representatives from China and ASEAN nations highlighted the crucial role of sports in the promotion of physical fitness and health.

Ding Dong, head of the Sport for All Department of the General Administration of Sport, called on China and ASEAN members to make joint efforts to build an international platform and mechanism for exchanges in the areas of physical fitness and health.

Cao Jingwei, president of the China Institute of Sport Science, told China Daily that China and ASEAN countries are discussing building a stable mechanism to promote exchanges at the academic and people-to-people levels.

"China and ASEAN countries have scattered cooperation in the fields of physical fitness and health promotion, and have not yet carried out systematic and institutionalized cooperation," Cao said, adding that the two sides should establish a platform for long-term coordination.

In a keynote speech delivered at the Indonesian parliament in October 2013, President Xi Jinping put forward the initiative of joining hands to build a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future.

Cao said, "At this historical moment, we choose to organize this international conference to leverage sports cooperation as an opportunity to jointly build the 'Belt and Road Initiative of Exercise Promoting Health', which can serve as a concrete measure toward building a China-ASEAN community with a shared future."

China and ASEAN countries reached a consensus at the first ASEAN Countries Plus China Ministerial Meeting on Sports in September, emphasizing that sports cooperation should be put high on the agenda, including personnel exchanges between the two sides, promotion of result-oriented cooperation in sports science research, technological application and event management.

Martin Taylor, representative of the World Health Organization to China, said nearly 20 percent of adults in the Western Pacific region and over 30 percent of adults in the Southeast Asian region were not sufficiently active.

What is more alarming is that 80 percent of school-going adolescents in these regions are inactive, or four out of every five teenagers who should be energetic are not active enough, Taylor added.

"We need to engage those sectors that may not be aware of how they can encourage activity — education, transport, urban planning, civil society, and, of course, the private sector," he said.

Soe Min Oo, director of the sports medicine division of the Myanmar Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs' Department of Sports and Physical Education, said it is of great significance for the country to carry out a joint study with China on promoting people's health and physical fitness.

"The information generated from this kind of study will be useful in making decisions for nationwide physical activity promotion in Myanmar," he said.

Li Yaying, deputy director of the ASEAN-China Center's education, culture and tourism department, said that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the proposal to build the China-ASEAN community with a shared future, as well as the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative.

"Sports play an important role in deepening the understanding of people between the two sides," she said.

Nittaya Visonnavong, head of the multilateral cooperation division of Lao SOMS (Senior Official Meeting on Sports) Focal Point, said, "The conference in Ningbo is a good platform for ASEAN countries and China to share experiences in monitoring their people's physical fitness and promoting health."

Aiman Som, a physiotherapist from the Sports Medicine and Research Center of Brunei, told China Daily that China's experience in promoting people's health should be used by ASEAN countries, most of which also have large rural populations.

"China is very dedicated to improving its national physical condition. With that excellence, we can cooperate to develop people's physical condition in our respective countries," Aiman said.


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