Linsanity has officially made its way to Wall Street.The HSBC’s Week in China memo is titled “A new Chinese hero?” and plastered with an image of the breakout basketball star dunking.
However, the story makes clear that “Linsanity” isn’t a clear win-win situation:
But according to the analyst who breaks down this “Linsanity,” Lin’s meteoric rise may be highly indicative of increasing tensions within China and between China and the U.S. His Taiwanese roots, American upbringing, and Christian faith have proved incredibly problematic for media in China, and have led to varied and perhaps even conflicting representations of the icon.
A few examples of that from the report:
State media gets more uncomfortable mentioning Lin’s parental background and CCTV seems to be keeping the references to Taiwan to a minimum, dodging the question of Lin’s heritage by identifying him as “ethnically Chinese”…
Lin will do well to stay out of the political limelight, if Yani Tseng’s experience is anything to go by. In 2010 controversy broke out when Tseng, a Taiwanese golf prodigy and world number one female golfer, reportedly rejected an offer of $25 million from a Chinese company to change her citizenship to mainland Chinese. Along similar lines, Xinhua published an article last week suggesting that there were “increasing calls” for Lin to do something similar and give up his US citizenship. Why? To become a Chinese citizen in time to play for the national team at the Olympics this year in London.
Another issue for state media to ponder is how to handle Lin’s devout religious belief, especially his habit of praising his “Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ” in post-match interviews. As The Economist magazine also noted this week: “[In China] one doesn’t usually see athletes thanking God for their gifts; their coach and Communist Party leaders, yes, but Jesus Christ the Saviour? No.”
Not to mention that the U.S. media has had its own foibles about the difficult-to-describe new star.
So what does this all mean? The only clear winners here are the corporate ones: the NBA and Nike, who stand to profit from increasing Chinese and Chinese American enthusiasm in basketball.