American Basketball vs. Chinese Hardball: Guess Who Won

The N.B.A. is the latest entertainment giant to incite nationalist anger in China, where political submission has become the price of admission to a market of 1.4 billion.

The New York Times
Date: Oct. 13, 2019
By: Steven Lee Myers and Chris Buckley

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LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers going to the basket against the Brooklyn Nets in a preseason match in Shanghai on Thursday.CreditCreditHector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BEIJING — Back in the Cold War, the sclerotic Soviet system proved no match for the lure of American soft power: bluejeans, jazz, rock ’n’ roll, Coca-Cola, Hollywood. All became symbols of American freedom and prosperity that no amount of communist prohibitions could stop.

Today, China poses a far more formidable yet lucrative challenge for some of the most famous icons of American culture — Apple, Disney, Lady Gaga, and lately the National Basketball Association. Selling the best of American creativity and talent increasingly demands submission to the views of the Communist Party as the price of admission.

A recent furor that began with a single tweet by an N.B.A. executive in support of the Hong Kong protests has underscored the consequences of China’s willingness to use its vast economic clout to police any political values that threaten the party’s legitimacy or its policies.

It is the soft power of cultural vitality — as opposed to the hard, coercive power of military might — that makes the United States admirable in the eyes of much of the world, including China. The companies and organizations that produce much of this culture, however, have had to increasingly bend to China’s political will under its leader, Xi Jinping, whose ambition is to make his country a counterweight, if not an alternative, to the United States.

Amid this new world order, the expectation that American music, movies and entertainment will coax China closer toward the liberal values of its Western rival — or at least build good will, as it did in the Soviet Union — has dimmed.    [FULL  STORY]

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