This article presents an exploration of a non-Western nation’s responses to globalisation through an in-depth analysis of elite artistic gymnastics in China over a lengthy time span. The concept of globalisation and patterns of ‘reach’ and ‘response’ act as the heuristic devices underpinning the analysis. Data were collected from a range of documents and from six semi-structured interviews. The trajectory of Chinese elite artistic gymnastics’ responses to globalisation can be characterised as a passive response in the 1950s, a participative response in the first half of the 1960s, a conflictual response from 1966 to the early 1970s, a participative response from the early 1970s to the 2012 Olympic Games, and a passive response, once again, during the Rio Olympiad (post-London 2012). In this way, a nation’s responses to globalisation are seen as dynamic rather than rigid or static. China’s case also demonstrates that a nation can have a degree of autonomy when responding to globalisation, although in extreme cases, a nation-state can choose to resist this globalising context, largely depending on a government’s attitude towards globalisation and the value the government attaches to it.
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