China’s official war on golf has finally come to an end.
President Xi Jinping banned golf for all officials and its party members last year, fearing it was a gateway to corruption. And the ban didn’t just affect a few thousand bureaucrats; the Communist party has 88 million members.
It wasn’t the first time the sport was banned. In 1949, Mao Zedong enforced an outright ban, denouncing it as a “sport for millionaires.” The sport has boomed since, in the last few decades, though the fairway gained a reputation for being the spot where corrupt officials make shady deals. The number of 18-hole courses and golfers grew rapidly; so much so that the government announced a ban on building new golf courses in 2004.
Golf is just one of many casualties in the government’s renewed anti-corruption drive in 2012. In last year’s update of the Communist Party’s discipline rules, members were banned from “obtaining, holding or using membership cards for gyms, clubs, golf clubs, or various other types of consumer cards, or entering private clubs.” At least 60 state-employees were punished for spending public funds on playing golf.
Party leaders have now backtracked from the ban and their vocal condemnation of the sport, the Guardian reports, in the Discipline Inspection and Supervision News. “Since it is only a sport, there is no right or wrong about playing golf,” the newspaper for China’s anti-corruption agency declared.
For now, golf is fine for government officials, China Daily confirms, as long as they pay for it themselves.