SHENZHEN: Hosting the Women’s Tennis Association Finals was supposed to put the Chinese technology hub of Shenzhen on the sporting map, but the suspension of the tournament in the wake of the Peng Shuai scandal has left its ambitions in limbo. China’s “miracle” city, best known as the launchpad of the country’s 40-year economic transformation, is among China’s wealthiest and is home to tech giants including Huawei Technologies and Tencent Holdings. In January 2018 the WTA announced that Shenzhen had trumped rival bids from Manchester, Prague, St Petersburg and former host Singapore to stage what would “easily be the largest and most significant WTA Finals” in its history, its chairman and CEO Steve Simon said at the time. The city of more than 17 million that neighbours Hong Kong had promised a state-of-the-art stadium, while local real estate developer Gemdale Corp put up $14 million in prize money ––– double the pot of the previous finals ––– winning the right to stage the event from 2019 to 2028. But early this month, Simon announced the WTA would suspend tournaments in China over the treatment of former No.1 doubles player Peng Shuai, who was not seen in public for nearly three weeks after accusing China’s former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Doubt over the tournament’s future highlights the clash between China’s global sporting ambitions and western criticism of Beijing’s authoritarianism. A handful of countries led by the United States have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics ––– meaning they won’t send government representatives. China hosted nine WTA events in 2019, but the WTA confirmed on Dec. 7 that the traditional season-opening Shenzhen Open, an event separate from the WTA Finals, will not take place in the first half of 2022. China has been all-but-shut to international visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. A spokesperson for the Shenzhen government said he did not know whether the WTA would return.