China womens soccer
China defender Wu Haiyan (5) celebrates after defeating Cameroon in Round 16 in the FIFA 2015 women's World Cup soccer tournament at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on June 20, 2015. Reuters/Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Chinese state-owned and private media companies are gearing up to invest in the growing popularity of sports in China. Along with a stabilized economy, environmental reforms and military growth, China’s government is lending a helping hand to boost the growth of the sports industry. In the process, the government introduced new policies to relax restrictions on holding sporting events and even established soccer as a national sport.

As China’s population becomes increasingly wealthy with more disposable income, leisure activities such as film and travel have exploded into multimillion-dollar markets. China’s government is making a similar push to bring big-time sports into the Chinese mainstream in hopes of reaping the economic benefits.

Last October, China’s cabinet, the State Council, announced plans to invest in the sports industry in hopes of reaching a goal of the industry being able to contribute 5 trillion yuan to the nation’s GDP by 2025. A report in Chinese financial magazine Caixin cites data from GF Securities saying China's developing sports industry only contributed 0.6 percent to China’s GDP in 2012; meanwhile, the U.S. sports industry contributed 2.59 percent of the U.S. GDP in 2012.

To get to that point, state-owned media company Beijing Hualu Baina Film & TV Co. Ltd. said it would explore business ventures in sports to take advantage of the government’s policies. China’s video-streaming subscription service LeTV also expanded its service to feature a sports-centric channel backed by nine Chinese firms.

On the forefront of sports investment is Dalian Wanda Group, the global cinema house and property giant, which has been investing in various sports-related projects. Wanda purchased Infront Sports and Media, a Swiss-based marketing company for 1.05 billion euros back in February and have continued to pursue sports investments. Wang Jianlin, Wanda’s chairman, told state-run Xinhua News Agency that the company plans to buy at least three more sports companies this year. Wang added that he expects to announce a major acquisition by the company that would be “good news” for Chinese soccer.