The first world ranking staged in China was in 1990. The second was in 1999.
But in the 2000s, China’s place as a central powerbase for snooker was cemented, largely due to the exploits of one of its own sons.
Ding Junhui was invited to the 2002 China Open in Shanghai as a 14 year-old wildcard. He had been identified as a promising up-and-comer in the Chinese junior ranks and took two frames off Mark Selby.
Peter Ebdon described him as “the finest 15 year-old I have ever seen” and a huge amount of hype began to swirl around him.
It increased when, in 2002, he won the Asian under 21 title, the Asian amateur title and then the IBSF world amateur title.
In 2003, he was given a wildcard to compete on the main tour. Talk about a culture shock, from China he came to play full time in the UK where, like so many, he found the qualifiers tough.
Inevitably the knives were almost immediately out for him but Ding put up a good showing when, at 16, he became the youngest player ever to compete in the Wembley Masters, beating Joe Perry before losing in a decider to Stephen Lee.
Due to financial problems afflicting the sport, the China Open was not staged for three years until returning in 2005 on a one year deal.
Ding was excused having to qualify and selected instead as a wildcard so that his home fans could see him up close.
His performance in the event was sensational. He turned 18 that week but played like an experienced old hand, not a relative rookie.
Ding defeated Marco Fu, Peter Ebdon and Ken Doherty to reach the final and then, in front of an estimated viewing audience of 110 million in China, beat Stephen Hendry 9-5 to win the title.
Because he was a wildcard he did not, officially at least, bank any prize money and actually went down in the rankings.
But Ding’s victory was worth plenty to snooker. It lit the blue touch paper for a bona fide boom that has seen millions of Chinese take to the green baize.
When people ask me what the best event I’ve ever attended is, I would name this 2005 China Open.
It was wonderful to see the reaction of the home crowd to Ding’s success and there was a feeling, justified as it has transpired, that it would be very important to the future of snooker.
There are now two ranking tournaments in China, both financially underwritten by the Chinese.
Players are treated like Hollywood film stars, walking the red carpet on tournament launch days and pursued relentlessly by autograph and photograph hunters.
More tournaments will surely follow, particularly as Chinese players improve.
Liu Song reached the 2007 Grand Prix quarter-finals, Liu Chuang qualified for the Crucible in 2008 and, at that same event, Liang Wenbo reached the quarter-finals.
Liang was also runner-up this year in the Shanghai Masters and it is very likely China will have two players in the elite top 16 alongside Hong Kong’s Marco Fu next season.
Ding remains the standard bearer for a nation, even though his form went off the boil after he added the 2005 UK Championship and 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy to his ranking tournament tally.
Efforts to take the World Championship to the Far East were repelled in this decade.
But if China continues to make inroads into snooker, it may be harder to avoid in the next one.