In the ongoing case of The Great Stall of China, there seems to be an even greater cultural divide.
Those who Yi-mail and identify themselves as Chinese are generally pro-Milwaukee Bucks. They are upset with their countryman, Yi Jianlian, for snubbing the team. They want him here. They believe he should honor the rules.
Meanwhile, those who identify themselves as Americans more often than not ridicule the Bucks for using the sixth pick in the NBA draft on a guy who allegedly doesn't want to be here. Moreover, they invoke those most American of qualities, greed and power, and call for the immediate Westernization of Yi so he can get what he, or his reps, want.
Here is an example of the Chinese point of view:
"Hi, Michael. My name is Nick Zhu. I am from China. I read your latest two articles. I want to tell you something you might not know. Your words have been translated into Chinese by some Chinese media. However, they didn't translate the word 'hogwash.' Millions of people read your Chinese version. According to their feedback, 99 percent of them (are) standing behind you. No one understands (what they are) doing."
He goes on to print a Chinese symbol, which he said is complimentary, and applied it to the column and NBA fans in China who support the position. "We hope Yi can play for Bucks. Bucks will win with that. Chen (Haitao, owner of Yi's Chinese Basketball Association team) cannot handle so much pressure in China. Yi has to play in the NBA and just for the Bucks."
"I am a Chinese American who lives in Madison. Just wanted you to know your (Yi column) was beautifully translated to Chinese. By yesterday morning, there were about 150 fans (who) commented on your article. There were more than 600 comments today. Pretty much all the fans agreed with you except their words were a lot harsher.
"Like many Chinese basketball fans, I am embarrassed by Yi and his team. : I wish you could read some of those comments. Some of them are very amusing."
Yet another Yi-mail came from a young woman identifying herself as a journalist for the Beijing Youth Daily. She said she wanted input from a "senior sports commentator," but I answered her anyway.
Her message concurred with the numerous correspondences and surveys that indicate most Chinese want to see Yi in a Bucks uniform and that the Chinese are concerned that his challenging the draft rules will offend the NBA. She also thought that Yi's desire to cash in with endorsements from a larger market was hypocritical. She wanted to know if Westerners saw it that way and if there were any precedents.
I responded that we occasionally expect players here to use their power in negotiations because it is an American thing, but Yi is a special case because the draft gives him little leverage. I conceded that Bucks general manager Larry Harris could end up looking as foolish as Stu Jackson once did with Steve Francis, but that it probably wouldn't come to that.
For one thing, Yi isn't going back to China to waste a year he could be using in the NBA to prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. For another, the kid probably wants to be here. The problem seems to be his agents, whose position could erode against the Bucks' position of strength.
Just something to think about in Sino-American relations the next time something really important happens.