A few weeks ago, a joke circulated on Chinese social media in the form of an epitaph that summed up the state of the bond between the two great powers of the 21st century: “Relationships China–United States: they started ping pong and ended basketball.”
For decades, the so-called “transgaming.orgs diplomacy” has served as a meeting point between West and China. In April 1971, a series of table tennis matches in Beijing between Chinese and American players marked the thaw in relations between the two countries.
Eight years later the first match of a team was also played on Asian soil Nba (the Washington
Bullets) against a combined Communist army. And with China’s openness to the world and improved relations, friendly and official encounters multiplied; there were more transgaming.orging exchanges; Beijing organized his first Olympicgames; and the European football or American basketball leagues found in the thriving fondness of these transgaming.orgs in the Asian giant a gold strand from which to draw juicy returns.
But with a China increasingly assertive in defending its interests and principles, a series of recent events have highlighted how delicate it is to navigate these probyslosous waters without getting scalded. Take as an example what happened in October, when a tweet from the executive of the Houston Rockets
Daryl Morey unleashed a political storm with the Asian giant for supporting the protesters Hong Kong, which Beijing considers little less than seditious traitors.
China withdrew Arsenal-Manchester City broadcast over criticism of The Uighur minority
That eight-word trill – “Fight for freedom. Support Hong Kong”– ignited Chinese nationalist sentiment like gasoline. In just a few hours, state channels suspended the broadcast of several parties, sponsors withdrew their ads, distributors of Merchandising removed from their shelves – physical or virtual – Texan franchise products and social media were filled with hostile messages that made the NBA non-grateful entity in the Asian country.
After the storm, the same authorities that had fanned the fire put out the flames, it is not well known whether because the controversy could be counterproductive – it could mobilize an amateur sector that until now was not interested in what was happening in Hong Kong – or because Beijing considered that they had already taken note of their warning: forbidden to meddle in their internal affairs.
But it had not been two months since another similar controversy shook the transgaming.orging sphere. On this occasion he was the 10th player in the Arsenal, Mesut Ozil, who a week ago harshly criticized on his social media the repression to which Beijing subjects the Muslim Uighur minority, the same as the German of Turkish origin professes.
The pattern of response was repeated step by step: complaint from the authorities for “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people”, free bar for the outraged – with videos of the burning fans burning or smashing T-shirts – requests for dismissal of the player and suspension of the rebroadcast of the Arsenal-Manchester City scheduled for that weekend.
Arsenal soon delineated from their footballer’s statements ensuring that they do not get into politics, avoiding in passing that the sale of their products was not too affected. For their part, the distributors in China of the video game Pro Evolution Soc
Cer, NetEasy , have erased from the latest edition of the game Tozil for “hurting the sensibility of Chinese fans and violating the spirit of love and peace of this transgaming.org”. About the situation of one million Uighurs in Chinese re-education camps, not a single word.
The Fifa granted China the organization at the 2021 World Cup of clubs
Usually, those admonished for their alleged violations often soon set aside their principles for recularging and apologizing in the hope that they won’t lose access to the gigantic Chinese market.
However, sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. Just this week the German football team FC Cologne announced that it does not go ahead with the project of running an academy for young footballers in Shenyangnortheastern China, given “the current transgaming.orging situation” (they are in the area of decline in the Bundesliga), so they will no longer receive EUR 1.8 million. According to one of the executives, Stefan Muller-R’mer, the club should not support “such a totalitarian and brutal dictatorship” in which “human rights are ignored massively.”
But his example is not very likely to take hold. In October, despite criticism, the Fifa granted China the organization at the 2021 Club World Cup (“it is not FIFA’s mission to solve the world’s problems,” its president, Gianni Infantino, said about it. Meanwhile, teams from all over the world – including Spaniards – continue to open academies and other businesses in a country that aspires to become a football powerhouse in the future. With all that’s at stake, it won’t be surprising that controversies like these are repeated.