Entering Badminton Competitions In China

It seems like it is competition season in China (I have four between now and the end of the year) and now that I am getting better I am getting asked to compete in more. This is a really great development, I have always trained to be competitive and my plan is finally reaching fruition. But it is coming with some strange situations. Some because I’m a foreigner, and some…well, just because Chinese badminton has weird rules I guess. For instance?

Age requirements

In an upcoming team tournament me and my partners combined age must be more than 66. This isn’t a thing because I’m a foreigner, but the rule for everyone which even my coach thinks is strange so I know it isn’t common. (Mixed doubles must be 66, men’s doubles must be 85 or older). Since I’m 41, my coach had to find someone over 25. My club is a very young club with a lot of university students in it, so my coach had a hard time finding someone “old” enough. And of course he wanted someone as young as possible yet also experienced. But he did say he was grateful that I was one of the older members and my age allowed a younger member to play. Many of the younger members can’t qualify to play because their combined ages would be just too young. And my coach had to go outside our club to get enough older men to play.

Foreigner Rules

When my coach went to sign us up for the team tournament he was told I couldn’t compete because I was a foreigner. He eventually talked them into it, but there is still a chance that I won’t be able to play on game day if someone complains. In the official rules there is a rule that says “If a foreigner enters and either a player or a organizer protests, the foreigner can be kicked out.” (They also define foreigner as anyone outside mainland China including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan–which goes against what the Chinese government says, but I’m not going there.)

My coach stayed up till 1am and made dozens of calls to figure out ages and eligibility in putting together our team for an upcoming competition.

This is also a very strange rule I have not seen before. Basically, if someone sees me as a threat they can easily have me removed. I think it won’t be a problem this year, it is our first team competition and we don’t have a reputation yet, but if I do good, or even get to the finals, someone can protest and I can be disqualified. Not cool competition, not cool.

In a different competition they had an equally strange and uncool rule. The rule was that in the team competition, only one member of the team could be a expert player. (Xiamen has a lot of semi-pro’s and students who study badminton in college. So in an effort to keep the teams fair and give amateur players a chance they made this rule.) That rule was fine. It was the foreigner rule that bothered me.

So each team was allowed one expert player…OR…one foreigner. So for a team to have a foreigner it would mean they would have to miss out on having a semi pro. So obviously no one was willing to have a “good but not pro level” foreigner on their group. So I couldn’t enter this competition.

Then, just be to more unfair, foreigners weren’t just considered the expert player on a team, but the expert MALE player. I have a very high level female Malaysian friend who entered and had to play men’s doubles. While she’s an awesome player, a mixed team can’t hold up to a men’s doubles team if they are the same level. So she got trounced. If they let her play in mixed doubles they would have a real chance. But thanks to the weird rules (which also classified Hong Kong and Macau and Taiwan players as foreigners) she wasn’t allowed to play mixed doubles.

The Small Stuff

Other things I’ve come up against are smaller, but weird. Like health insurance. Tournaments include health insurance for any injuries sustained while playing…except for me. Because I’m a foreigner I’ve been told I am too expensive to insure and therefore I have had to waive the insurance or not be allowed to play. More expensive? Because my bones are made of gold or something? Last I checked fixing a broken arm or a twisted ankle is the same price no matter Chinese or not.

In my early days of training I watched my coach at a competition called “Inaugural World Chinese Invitational Badminton Team Championship Tournament.” Would I, as a foreigner, be allowed to participate in that? The name specifically says Chinese (as in Chinese people–not the country).

Being the Foreigner

This was always a worry in the back of my mind. I obviously understand I can’t represent China in international competitions, but I hoped it wouldn’t be such a problem for local ones. I haven’t been outwardly forbidden yet, but my competitions have also been relatively low stakes. I’m worried about when I get a higher level, and start entering regional or even national competitions, if they will just start openly banning me.  Even in Xiamen many major competitions have names such as “Chinese Citizens badminton tournaments” or equally patriotic names. Would a foreigner ever have a chance of being the winner at one of those? Or do they have rules preventing it?

I already have a bit of infamy as the only western foreigner playing badminton, and sometimes I get some benefits out of that (like the local Jimei competition is supposed to be for people who work or live in my district, yet they let Azhi be my partner even though he lives in another district just because I was a foreigner and they were being nice to me.) But it has already caused problems and I can only see this getting worse as time goes by.

At least now I have my club, and my coach, who can fight for me but I do see this as a real problem I’ll have to deal with as I get more advanced and enter higher level competitions. Hopefully I’m worrying about nothing, but fingers crossed.


  1. Olivier

    Good luck for the upcoming tournaments Becky!

    It’s nice to read you and follow your progress as a competitive badminton player.

    (Being a foreigner in an Asian country where I play badminton mainly with locals, I experience some of the joys and frustrations you describe.)

    1. Becky (Post author)

      Thanks so much! Which asian country are you in? Do you also speak the local language?

      1. Olivier

        I am living in Vientiane, Laos.
        I knew “beach” badminton in France but started to get the shuttle virus playing here in Vientiane.
        I know some of the local language—enough to understand “short”, “get away”, “you suck at positioning yourself”… We are playing the old “15 points / score only on serve” system here. We also have a lot of eating with people bringing food and drinking beer close to the courts which bring ants, etc. But here people do not smoke in the gymnasium!
        I am also playing in Bangkok occasionally (there are several meetup groups for that)

        If you ever come to Vientiane and want to play some rallies will be really nice to have you join ☝️

        1. Becky (Post author)

          It’s that old style of play common in Vietnam or just your area? And I’d rather ants than smokers. 😉

          Vietnam is definitely on my list of places to visit so I might take you up on that someday (and the offer is open if you come to China). Don’t you love living in asia where you can just kinda “stop by” a country for a few days. I went to Thailand once just to see a doctor and eat food for 3 days and then came back to China. Cheap and easy!

          1. Olivier

            Not Vietnam but Vientiane, Laos. Yes, you should definitely come for a weekend here! There is good healthy food and one of the best beer in the region. And you could get the honorary title of Vientiane top foreigner woman badminton player!
            I will definitely visit China one of these days but it seems a big country on the map .
            Here is my email if you plan a trip in Vientiane: olivier.celhay @ (the google email)

            I recon cigarette smoke can be really annoying when you are trying to recover form a rally!
            I think the 15 points-rule is played across most of Laos. People can be quiet conservative—plus there is this come-back from far behind element that makes it fun.

          2. Becky (Post author)

            Oh sorry. I thought you were being French about spelling Vietnam or something. 😉 Laos is even higher on my list so I’ll get there someday. I’m guessing there isn’t much competition for the best foreigner award, but I’ll take it.

            Recovery is okay because people don’t smoke on the court, but I just hate the smell of smoke, and courts are so big the smell kinda drifts all over so even if someone is smoking far away you can smell it. Then it gets in your clothes and blech. And yeah, china is big both on the map and in real life. And the visa isn’t cheap or easy. But definitely worthy of a visit since you are already in this part of the world.

  2. Eric

    No, i dont think they considered a you a threat, and i dont think the combined aged did not make sense.
    i am a badminton player, and there are too many players in our club, including every age section. normally we compete together without caring about the young or old. but in some so-called official competitions, the organizers consider the age to make everyone in fairness,looks like the weight for boxers. because age relates to vigor and speed, which is pretty important to badminton plating, while skill is easy to learn.

    1. Becky (Post author)

      Yeah, but most competitions have age brackets which make more sense. This weird “combined age” seems very arbitrary.

  3. Eric

    Because I’m a foreigner I’ve been told I am too expensive to insure and therefore I have had to waive the insurance or not be allowed to play ———- it is funny! lol..

  4. Eric

    Lol, intereting, a foreigner was discriminated in China?

    local rules are always stupid, but depends.

    i remember our club had a competition with another one some years ago. i knew that club, in which most members were in similar level with us. but they brought a professional guy to compete with us that day, – the guy i’d nerver seen. we were defeated very bad.

    1. Becky (Post author)

      Once you step outside the plush world of English speakers in China (where you get a lot of benefits) there is actually a lot of problems being a foreigner in china (I wouldn’t exactly call it discrimination…more like “problematic.”)

      And that was really rude of the other club. Not only unsportsmanlike but they took away an opportunity from real club members who train and work hard to prove themselves in competitions. I imagine if they did that too many times there wouldn’t be a lot of clubs asking them to join competitions.


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