Basketball can be a positive tool in Sino-US interactions

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/21 23:23:39

Basketball has once again become a heated topic among Sino-US interactions. But this time, it is not about the brilliant performance of a magnificent star, it's about a senseless act by three US college players in China.

Three freshmen from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) men's basketball team were accused of stealing sunglasses from a luxury store in Hangzhou earlier this month. They were released from custody after a short detention. Given US President Donald Trump's involvement in the incident, the episode has turned into a political football that the US media and other characters just can't give it up.

Now a coach from Montverde Academy, a private school in Florida, has warned his players to watch their behavior in China, because it is a "communist country." What does abiding by a country's laws have to do with ideology? Isn't everyone obligated to follow the law at all times? In which country is shoplifting not a crime?

The incident shows that interactions between China and the US are unfolding on every level, and are impacting the lives of ordinary people. US colleges have been sending their teams to China as part of ongoing exchange programs for years. The events provide convenient advertising for the schools hoping to attract more Chinese students.

The historic visit of the NBA's Washington Bullets to China in August, 1979 marked the beginning of basketball interaction between the two nations. The later emergence of Yao Ming in the NBA set off another upsurge in people's enthusiasm for the sport in both countries.

When Yao first arrived in the US, Shaquille O'Neal, an NBA icon, said he might greet Yao with an elbow to test his toughness. Yao's light-hearted reply was perfect, "I think he has a lot of meat on his elbows, so maybe it won't hurt that much." Yao later showed his talent by blocking O'Neal's shots time after time. Yao also stressed teamwork over individual performance, and his humor impressed sports fans even more. He showed that Chinese people can play basketball with grace and ease as well as anyone.

Even former US president Barack Obama was one of Yao's fans. During the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in 2009, the president was quoted quoting Yao, "'no matter whether you are a new, or an old team member, you need time to adjust to one another…' Through the constructive meetings that we have already had, and through this dialogue," the president said, "I am confident that we will meet Yao's standard."

It's unfair and exposes a bias when the US media suggests that China would have punished the three UCLA players too harshly. No one believes the incident would have a severe impact on Sino-US ties. Yet the coach from Montverde Academy had good reason to warn his players. Basketball is huge in the US and one of the most popular sports in the world. Americans who play abroad must realize they represent the image of their country.

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