Washington International Law Journal


Dustin C. Lane


Yao Ming, a Chinese basketball superstar and the top pick in the 2002 NBA draft, became just the third player from China to play professionally in the United States. His departure, however, was met with reluctance by the Chinese basketball bureaucracy and came at a high price: he had to agree to remit more than half of his salary to Chinese government agencies and return to play for the Chinese National Team in certain competitions. While Yao's release demonstrates willingness by the Chinese government to participate in an increasingly globalized sports world, it also highlights the growing pains of a Chinese political system still dominated by the ideology of state control over its citizens. With the potential for more Chinese players in the NBA, China stands at the doorstep of true basketball globalization. Instead of continuing to work within the Chinese framework and sending the message that these burdensome policies are tolerable, the NBA should attempt to work with the Chinese government to reform the way it handles Chinese players. By crafting a bilateral agreement to facilitate the uninhibited transfer of Chinese basketball players, the NBA and China can gain longterm economic, competitive, and human rights benefits. In the end, such an agreement would promote the dual goals of developing international basketball and giving Chinese players the freedom to play basketball anywhere they choose.

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