FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

China Update

Oct 17, 2018 Written by Frank Merrick.



China Update

In September, to create greater equity among students, the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) introduced new requirements for organizations wishing to host student competitions. FIRST Robotics Competition, like all FIRST programs, is international and we are committed to meeting all local requirements necessary to make our programs broadly available.

FIRST HQ has been working with local FIRST staff to understand the new law and find the best path forward for the 2019 season. Meeting the new requirements set forth by the MOE will require us to develop new relationships with approved partners in China. The timing of the requirements is such that we won’t be able to meet them for the 2019 season. As we are determined to meet these requirements in the long term and give as much notice as possible to our community about significant changes to the upcoming season, we are canceling the three Regionals we had planned for China in 2019. This will give us the time we need to develop the necessary relationships and put forth a solid application to hold events in China for the 2020 season and beyond.

We are working now to find alternative competition locations for teams currently registered to compete in China. All teams registered for all three Chinese Regionals (including those from outside China) are being contacted now.

We are working to have an off-season event in China and are looking forward to submitting a successful application to hold official FIRST Robotics Competition events in China in 2020.

If you have any questions about this, you can contact FIRST Team Support by emailing or calling (603) 666-3906 or (800) 871-8326.



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I feel so bad for those teams in China right about now...  Glad to hear that FIRST is working towards a compliant program with China in the future though!  Hopefully the example they put forth will help the program to continue to expand there and inspire countless more young adults as the decades progress.  Again, it sucks now, but I'm glad they're doing what they can to keep the program going.

Team 7080 in Beijing We are really disappointed about this sudden change as we are putting every force into it. However, the change is fixed so we hope 2019 off-season can be determined as soon as possible. I think every team in China would have the same wish because we really love the game. Thank you FIRST.

Is there any chance of expanding the offerings in nearby countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, or Japan to accommodate these teams?  That would at least somewhat reduce their travel costs, though we had three teams in our small town in California last year.

I highly doubt sending PRC-territory teams to Taiwan is an option since FIRST is clearly trying to gain the favor of the PRC government.In fact, the FIRST publications refer to it a "Chinese Taipei, which is what the PRC (mainland China's communist government) forces US airlines to call the free and independent state of Taiwan. Long live Taiwan!

While I am hardly a fan of the PRC's policy on Taiwan, I should note that the term "Chinese Taipei" was mutually agreed between the PRC and ROC, which at one time was not a particular fan of the term "Taiwan" being used to refer to itself, either.

We had briefly considered alternatives in nearby countries for 2019, but we feel we don't yet have the support structures in place to make that happen. But we're looking forward to a day, maybe not long from now, when we will have additional events in the area!

Can you elaborate just a little more on what are the new requirements for organizations wishing to host student competitions in China.  And are there any requirements that affect the ability of Chinese teams to participate at events within the U.S. ?

There are very few English-languages sources describing the policies, someone on CD posted this link (warning: state-owned media): According to that article, no revenues (note that it separately says nonprofit, but goes on to say that no fees of any kind) may be collected from national competitions, which must be registered with the appropriate ministry of the PRC. If it is like other laws in China, such as the website license (, it will probably require a company in the mainland Chinese territory, which is why this post likely mentioned working with local partners.

Assuming FIRST doesn't impose any restrictions, and I don't see why they would, there would be nothing stopping FRC teams in China from participating in overseas events; the article doesn't mention any international regulations and China does not require exit visas.

IMO, FIRST should think twice before giving local, state regulated agencies from a rogue state that arbitrarily detains its own citizens in concentration camps ( substantial control over it's programs. If China cared to "create greater equity among students," they would not close schools ( and effectively imprison children ( . No country is perfect--the US has its problems too--but the PRC today is a dictatorship that does not afford the most basic human rights to its citizens. Complying with its restrictions on knowledge and daily life, and in doing so, tacitly endorsing them, not to mention parroting their claims about the purpose of restrictions, is wrong.

NB: the views expressed in this post do not represent the official position of any team or organization, they are solely my own opinions

Requirements include the need to have applications for competition approval submitted well in advance of the event and to have the application submitted by a National NGO within China. There are other complexities we are trying to understand as well. Regarding the participation of teams from China in events outside China, I understand they need permission from their school (nothing unusual there for any school-based team). Many teams from China have told us they want to participate elsewhere, and we are working to welcome them! 

I note that your update above says, "FIRST Robotics Competition, like all FIRST programs, is international and ..."  I'm just very curious, when did FIRST officially commit to International competitions?  Why did FIRST officially commit to International competitions?  I ask this because a long time ago, when I first became a mentor on a Philadelphia team in 2000, I would attend the kickoff year after year and listen to Dean and Woody talk about how the US kids were way behind in the world in science and technology and that this program, FIRST, was to get the US kids interested in S&T so the US kids could catch up.

Now that we are International, did I hear Dean and Woody correctly back then?

Our first official competition outside the USA was in 2002. While FIRST started with a focus on the USA (you may remember our website used to be, our mission has evolved as we recognized the good FIRST could do around the world.

I recognize the tremendous good FIRST can do around the world.  FIRST Robotics Competition is a homerun anywhere it evolves and I don't doubt that the principles FIRST holds dear can and has brought the world a little closer together. Now that it is international and is inspiring the world's kids (Not just the USA kids), I assume that the USA kids still are and will remain far behind in S&T.  

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