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From football to stocks, meddling Beijing is scoring own goals

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As some cynical observers in China put it so well, the country’s most high-profile but totally thankless jobs are being the coach of the national soccer team and the head of the securities watchdog.

Last month, it just so happened that within the space of two days the incumbents of both positions departed. They left for different reasons, but their departures nonetheless once again focused the spotlight on two emotive issues which deeply affect the heartstrings – and purse strings – of tens of millions of Chinese.

On January 24, Marcello Lippi, one of the world’s most successful soccer managers, said he would quit the Chinese national team. Even though he had earlier indicated he would not sign another contract after his current two-year tenure ended in 2019, his departure will follow the Chinese team’s humiliating defeat and exit from the Asian Cup quarter finals at the hands of Iran.

Two days later, the Chinese government announced it would replace Liu Shiyu, the head of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), with another banker after China’s stock markets became one of the world’s worst performers last year.

The implications of the changes, which have triggered a flood of comments in both state and social media, highlight the growing frustration and helplessness felt by the Chinese people as they search for fixes in two of their favourite pastimes – watching soccer and trading stocks.

If history can be any guide, their collective disenchantment will continue so long as the Chinese government relishes its meddling and domineering role.

Lippi is the ninth foreign coach China has hired in the past 26 years, but China’s national soccer team has hardly gone anywhere, and is still languishing in the second or third tier of countries in Asia.

Just like those of his predecessors, the appointment of Lippi – who led Italy to win the 2006 World Cup – had briefly raised hopes among China’s soccer fans, because of his reputation and the fact he led the Guangzhou-based club Evergrande to three Chinese Super League titles and the 2013 AFC........

© South China Morning Post