China may restrict trade … on seven-footers. Not exactly the way protectionism usually works, but for all the talk of liberalization China’s reaction to Yao Ming’s mild criticisms of his Olympic teammates is a depressing reality check. Chinese officials have reportedly said that the NBA has corrupted their once “obedient child,” who’s now “more like an American, he dares to say anything.” Officials hinted that they might “consider tighter restrictions” on Chinese players who want to come to the NBA. Interesting that Yao has been criticized in the U.S. for being too meek, and for failing to get in his teammates’ faces when necessary. Yao’s response to his Chinese teammates play is not exactly the “tirade” that this story’s headline suggests: “I’m disappointed in my teammates,” Yao said. “We gave up at the end of the game. I don’t think some of my teammates cherish the honor to play for the country. … Were they nervous? Or they would not take their responsibilities? We gave up easily every time we came across obstacles.” Actually sounds pretty patriotic. Yet, here’s the response from Chinese sports officals: “How could he say that?” one official was quoted as saying. “How could he say that the other players weren’t trying their best? Any irresponsible speech like his, any action to split the team, is definitely forbidden …” (Gulp.)
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.