Share this on Twitter Share this on Facebook Share this on LinkedIn Share this on Sina Weibo Share this on Wechat Share this on LinkedIn President Xi Jinping and Chancellor Angela Merkel watch German and Chinese children playing soccer in a 2017 visit to Berlin.Credit: Ronald Wittek - Pool/Getty Images In October of 2015, Chinese media announced Xi Jinping’s first selfie. China’s leader looked uncharacteristically jolly posing alongside the soccer star Sergio Aguero and then-British Prime Minister David Cameron, with Aguero snapping the trio’s photo. It quickly went viral. Argentine striker Aguero became an overnight sensation and his team, Manchester City, scooped up a sizable Chinese fanbase. “Every person in the world asks me about the selfie,” Aguero later said. Xi was in the UK for a state visit. But on his final day, he made time to enjoy a Manchester City training session. A lifelong soccer fan, Xi soaked up the atmosphere at the English Premier League club. But it was more than simple fun. Just eight months earlier, Xi had launched his “Overall Plan for Chinese Football Reform and Development” — a pledge to transform the game’s development in China, from top to bottom. Its goals were manifold. Healthcare costs were skyrocketing, and ChiSubscribe, register or login to read the rest. Registered users can access a limited amount of content for free.Subscribers get full access to: Exclusive longform investigative journalism, Q&As, news and analysis, and data on Chinese business elites and corporations. We publish China scoops you won't find anywhere else. A weekly curated reading list on China from David Barboza, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Shanghai correspondent for The New York Times. A daily roundup of China finance, business and economics headlines. We offer discounts for groups, institutions and students. Go to our Subscriptions page for details.