Hangzhou in eastern China - best known for the West Lake, a placid and much-painted tourist attraction - was the only candidate city, a report by the country's official Xinhua news agency said.

Its sole candiancy made it a shoo-in for selection by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) at its congress in the Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat.

An OCA spokesman confirmed the decision to AFP, saying the body, the Chinese Olympic Committee and Hangzhou had already signed the hosting contract at the meeting.

The award comes shortly after Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, having hosted the Summer Games in 2008, and means China will host two major multi-sport events in the same year.

China staged official celebrations in July after winning the Winter Olympics bid, beating out Kazakhstan's Almaty, despite concerns over its human rights record and Beijing's pollution levels.

The 2008 Games marked a major step forward for China on the international stage, and analysts say its Communist authorities still use major sporting events, such as the World Athletics Championships in Beijing last month, to burnish their credentials.

Ahead of the Winter Olympics decision, Xu Guoqi, a history professor at Hong Kong University, told AFP: "From a government perspective, they still need to legitimise their political base. So they need to hold a big event to make Chinese people feel good."

Susan Brownell, a visiting professor at Heidelberg University's Institute of Sinology, said inter-regional rivalry was also a motive.

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