Chinese hoops star Yao Ming's ambitions to overhaul China's system of basketball management has earned top-level support from Vice-Premier Liu Yandong.
Chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association Yao Ming speaks after an open training class of Chinese women's basketball team in Beijing, April 10, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]
"A country's prowess in ballgames such as soccer and basketball reflects its status as a world sporting power, so the governing body should continue to develop basketball through reform to contribute to that quest," she said.
Liu was speaking during a meeting on Tuesday that was held to hear the work reports of top sports officials concerning basketball reform following the recent reshuffle of the Chinese Basketball Association's leadership.
Gou Zhongwen, director of the General Administration of Sport and Li Yingchuan, its assistant director, attended the meeting to report to Liu.
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Yao, an eight-time NBA All Star and former backbone of the Chinese national team, was elected chairman of the CBA in February, becoming the first to be drawn from outside government ranks.
The CBA was formerly run by officials promoted from within the General Administration of Sport, who retained all major decision-making powers for the game's development.
Since assuming office, Yao has made various proposals regarding reform of the national team, professional league operation and youth cultivation, calling for more market-oriented professional management rather than the traditional administrative model.
On Wednesday, the CBA announced part of these reforms would involve the formation of two national teams, each with an independent coaching staff and roster, to alternately represent China at international events through 2018.
The teams will merge in 2019 ahead of the International Basketball Federation World Cup in China later that year and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The move will "motivate all coaches and players by creating competition between the two squads and involving as many young players as possible", the CBA said in a statement.
The vice-premier said the government acknowledges the determination of the CBA to boost basketball development and urges it to further improve Chinese basketball's competence and international profile by the time of the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
"I hope the new CBA leadership around Yao can overcome all difficulties with a great sense of honor and push forward reform of the national team's development, league operation, youth and social promotion, to contribute to the country's quest to be a strong sporting power," Liu said.