Yi Jianlian and the argument against democracy in China

Those who follow sports will know that the starters for the NBA All-Star game are chosen by fan ballot, originally this was done at the arenas but with the Internet and the internationalization of basketball most voting is now done online.  As a result of fan voting presumably from China and, possibly, Newark, Yi Jianlian, the 21 or 24-year old forward for the New Jersey Nets, has surpassed several established stars and is threatening the starting position of Boston Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett.  Yi is a solid NBA player, but he’s hardly in Yao Ming territory, never mind KG.* This week the Beijing Youth Daily questioned whether or not A-Lian, as he is known, deserves to be an all-star.

According to a summary published in the China Daily:

China’s 350 million basketball fans have become an important group for the NBA, so it is not surprising that Yi, a Chinese national, rank thirds in the voting. They believe the votes cast by Chinese fans should carry equal weight with those cast by American or German fans, and they have called on others to be self-confident in participating in the vote.

But others argue that Yi’s skills are not good enough for him to become a starter in the All-Star game. They say some fans have voted for him repeatedly or even resorted to manipulating computer software in an attempt to give him enough votes to be included on the All-Star game’s roster. Those that believe Yi’s skills as a basketball player are below par say the level of All-Star game is lowered by such tactics, which constitute cheating. They also note that forcing the NBA’s global fans to accept the voting results of Chinese fans is not good for the future development of Yi, whom they believe is not qualified to take part in the All-Star game at present.

Interesting dilemma…support the democratic rights of the large number of Chinese fans who want to see Yi hoop it up against the NBA’s best** or else insinuate that such large-scale movements can be a detriment to overall interests and goals.***


*Yi’s also out for the next four weeks with a broken pinkie.

**Just for the record: My all-star picks were Devin Harris, D-Wade, KG, Lebron, and Dwight Howard from the East with Chris Paul, Kobe, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Yao in the West.  That Yi Jianlian is getting more votes than Chris Bosh, Danny Granger, or Paul Pierce just kills me.

***Yes, I’m being tongue-in-cheek here. Sorta.

The Discussion: 47 Comments

I am not a NBA fan, but for Yi, a bigger concern is actully if he is eligible to play in the first place, as he is probably 3 years older than what we think he should be.

One more thing, Yi’s age problem is openly reported in China, which is a good sign of freedom of speech, as the reportage give rise to the public awareness of age manipulation.

January 11, 2009 @ 2:28 pm | Comment

Interesting thoughts. It was bound to happen at some point given the nature of the voting. Might as well just call it the “People’s Choice Awards” instead of the “All-Star Game”.

As for Yi’s age, I really don’t think that matters much for his career in the NBA. Age manipulation in China may be something worth watching, but just forget about Yi…he’s proven himself enough of a player and it’s not worth the trouble.

January 11, 2009 @ 3:59 pm | Comment

A new first – a post about basketball on Peking Duck.

Thanks for this, Jeremiah. An interesting situation, to see the party annoyed at the results of the nationalism they’ve fostered. Kind of like in 2005 during the protests against all things Japanese was making China look bad and they said, Enough, time to put the eggs back in the cartons.

Meanwhile, let’s all hope for the quick recovery of Yi’s pinkie.

January 11, 2009 @ 4:16 pm | Comment

Now can I complain about the NFL Pro Bowl selections?!

January 11, 2009 @ 4:27 pm | Comment

I completely agree. The NBA all-star selection is far too important to use as a test case for Chinese democracy. I smell international incident….

January 11, 2009 @ 4:31 pm | Comment

proof that democracy is far, far from perfect.

January 11, 2009 @ 5:47 pm | Comment

Without getting too sidetracked by the age thing, I think it mattered most when he was drafted. Given his level of development both physically and in his overall game, he seemed like a suitable risk for a #1 pick at 19 but not necessarily at 21.

My favorite moniker for Yi is “The Chairman,” bestowed on him by ESPN wag Bill Simmons after Yi’s pre-draft showed the 7-footer learning post-up moves against a bar stool rather than another player.

yourfriend (”Ferin”):

Well, certainly if it involves Chinese basketball fans…*

You understand the meaning of the phrase “tongue-in-cheek” right? I don’t have to explain it to you using small words and lots of pictures?

I might suggest, if it makes you feel more comfortable, moving out of the democracy where you currently live to a country whose political system is more suitable to your tastes.

But then again, Ferin, irony was always too smart for you.

*Yes, for the blindingly stupid, I’m joking.

January 11, 2009 @ 5:57 pm | Comment

Just one more thought, this is not really about democracy.

Chinese fans love him, that’s what makes him a star, in China at least, which is unfortunately not something shared by many Americans NBA voters.So this is not really a case against anything simple because you do not like the person.

If there are 60 or more Chinese players in NBA, I bet the thing will be different, but since there are not many, each one of them is a panda worth promoting and protecting.

January 11, 2009 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

This is a very good example as to why nobody is wishing for China to become the most influential country in the world.

A world driven by controlled mob mentality? With no diversity, where everything is “harmonized”.

I mean, common, we’ve been making movies and books about this for the last 50 years.

Maybe we should finally put in place some old sci-fi scenarios such as cloning one human, and making the human race is purified once and for all?

Sometimes, this is almost what I feel I am hearing from many ultra nationalists (not just China).

The idea that any country (not just China) that is not multicultural, with a totalitarian government could become the world leader, is terrifying me.

The worst case scenario becoming a reality.


January 11, 2009 @ 8:30 pm | Comment

“proof that democracy is far, far from perfect.” – Ferin (apparently)

Indeed, Chinese basketball fans have found a way to abuse proportional representation. Their leaders must be very proud.

Reminds me of last year’s state media mobilisation of the masses to vote for the Great Wall in a world poll to determine the seven wonders of the modern world.

Nothing like considering each candidate on their merits, eh?

January 12, 2009 @ 12:11 am | Comment

Indeed, Chinese basketball fans have found a way to abuse proportional representation. Their leaders must be very proud.

Reminds me of last year’s state media mobilisation of the masses to vote for the Great Wall in a world poll to determine the seven wonders of the modern world.

Nothing like considering each candidate on their merits, eh?

This is a very good example as to why nobody is wishing for China to become the most influential country in the world.

A world driven by controlled mob mentality? With no diversity, where everything is “harmonized”.

I mean, common, we’ve been making movies and books about this for the last 50 years.

Maybe we should finally put in place some old sci-fi scenarios such as cloning one human, and making the human race is purified once and for all?

Sometimes, this is almost what I feel I am hearing from many ultra nationalists (not just China).

[Ed note: If you wish to quote Stuart or Bao as a means to further your argument, that’s fine. I am neither Stuart nor Bao, however, so I’m going to ask that you formulate your own arguments and use your own words rather than plagiarize/cut & paste mine. – Jeremiah]

January 12, 2009 @ 1:26 am | Comment

2009, the year that we will remember as the year the internet was shut down in China.

The Dragon Blackout

Amazing to see it shaping now…

January 12, 2009 @ 1:30 am | Comment

I do not have a low opinion of Chinese people Crabby, I have a low opinion about you, do you understand the difference?

I guess you would feel better if you were representing the mass, and all Chinese people.

But you don’t.

January 12, 2009 @ 1:33 am | Comment

The funny thing about all this propaganda, is that it’s having the exact opposite effect of what the CCP is hoping for. It’s just actually increasing the pressure, in a subtle way, slowly but surely, leading to what we all know will happen one day.

You muzzle, you constrains, you suppress, you direct, you try to control, but underneath, it’s growing stronger everyday.

You are feeding and contributing to the success of your own executioner.

This is the beauty of human nature, its resilience and its inner desire for freedom and the truth.

This fight is already lost, and since day one.

January 12, 2009 @ 1:45 am | Comment

I am not sure what you mean by fight is already lost. Ever since the founding of New China, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese people have been working and contributing greatly towards building a democratic and xiaokang society. China, given its own set of historical and cultural conditions and like other developing countries, must find its own way towards democratization and political civilization, must blaze its own trail, search for its own mode of development.

Therefore I must take issue with you when you suggested that it’ll be a “horror” if the Chinese people had been allowed democracy due to their “mob mentality”. And a fellow blog suggested that it’d be a horror due to the (Chinese?) people’s tendency to “abuse proportional representation”. While you have a point that in a land of 1.3 billion people, allowing democracy as narrowly defined by the West (one person one vote, direct election of national leaders) has the potential for the eruption of mob mentality, voting fraud, and even violence, I strongly disagree that this can be used as an excuse to thwart and obstruct the efforts by the Chinese people and its government to strive for more democratization in all political arenas. This is the commitment of the Chinese government to the Chinese people and the world people.

January 12, 2009 @ 2:03 am | Comment

I have an honest question, why do you think that a proven although imperfect model I admit could not work in China?

Are Chinese people a different kind of humans? Why is it that it’s not acceptable for Chinese to follow a similar route as we did? What is so different here?

5000 years of servitude? Big deal, we’ve been there and done that as we say. So it’s not exclusive to China.

Is it because it’s not Chinese, and whatever truth must and should be coming from China, otherwise it’s not acceptable?

Is there a law that forbid a nation to learn from other nations? Why repeat the mistakes from the [past and not just jump on the 2008 wagon? Why is it necessary to go tough all this misery when others already opened the path for you?

It seems like a monumental waste of time no?

Is it pride?

Seriously, what is it?

January 12, 2009 @ 2:15 am | Comment


couldn’ta said it better if I was Xinhua myself. if you repeat a lie 1000 times people think its true? I think most people would underestimate the power of the propaganda department. I mean, who would believe that people would believe lies and repeat them zealously? Or who would believe that people deny or are unaware of their recent history?

so 1984

January 12, 2009 @ 4:36 am | Comment

“Seriously, what is it?”

Quite simple… Someone who profits in someway from maintaining current state of things. 😉

January 12, 2009 @ 6:14 am | Comment


As a Chinese, I have to say there is no way for Chinese to adopt democracy and enjoy freedom. Actually, they don’t even want to. What they like is fighting against each other. But interestingly, they also like to follow others steps. They think some illusive national proud is more important than individual freedom. Today, after Cultural revolution and Xiaoping’s policy to ‘earn money’, they lose the last morality. Some of them from poverty hate dictators but they also want to be a member of them, which is the mark of their success. They are very enjoying abusing others if they get power (which may be learned from Chairman Mao, though Mao is just a representative of the tradition of 5000 years) but very coward when facing power (that’s one of the reasons why Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 failed but similar activities succeed in eastern Europe). If you want to treat them with equality, they feel weird and think you may have some bad purpose. But if you abuse them, they fear of you but like to follow your order, and even speak out for your interest.

So western people shouldn’t waste their time and energy to ask Chinese to adopt democracy. Remember the weak point of Chinese is their shortsightedness. also they don’t know how to collaborate. The unity is impossible even it costs nothing of their own benefits (remember it’s their nature to fight against their own people. national proud is worth nothing compared to personal interests). So China will never be a threat to the civilized world. The dictators just want to maintain their sovereignty over those poor people. they may speak loudly and behave like a superpower, but that’s just how they divert the attention of those lower level and coerced people.

The best strategy is to use one group of Chinese to fight against another.

January 12, 2009 @ 8:59 am | Comment

this is a good example of shortsightedness of Chinese.

January 12, 2009 @ 9:35 am | Comment

Let the Chinese vote the way they want and put Yi where they want to. Eventually they will pay for their irrational nationalism when their favorite star can’t live up to the standard and becomes a disappointment. Both their star and they themselves will be embarrassed by their choice and ridiculed by the world community.

The same applies when the immature and ignorant people choose a wrong leader in a democracy and then suffer for their poor judgment and decision. It is democracy lesson 101.

January 12, 2009 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

Chinese will never admit their fault. They will just think it is the discrimination of the world community.

January 12, 2009 @ 1:38 pm | Comment

With no diversity

China has more diversity than any Western country. Assimilated house slaves that feed you “ethnic food” =/= diversity.

Likewise, Chinese people are far, far more individualistic than the mindless hive-mind lemmings of the West who learn everything they know from mass media and the church.

January 12, 2009 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

moving out of the democracy where you currently live to a country whose political system is more suitable to your tastes.

If you don’t like China’s government, go back to Europe.

January 12, 2009 @ 1:42 pm | Comment

If the millions of migrant worker that build your ivory towers and pamper you daily for a couple of RMB’s are not slaves, then I wonder what they are.

How about the other couple of millions, living on 4000 RMB’s per year, putting rice in your plate?

And if you believe that they are not seeing what’s happening and clearly understanding that they are missing the “miracle growth” boat right now, then you are dreaming. And you’re probably just part of the new Chinese Elite middle class that now enjoy its luxury bought on the back of millions of people living in abject conditions.

Do you really think that these people will continue forever to contribute to such an unequal model? Enjoying when a couple of pricks and princesses go on forums to showcase their obscene luxury lifestyle obtained on the back of their parents, in turn exploiting the poor?

Building a whole country on such inequities, can only lead to a catastrophic result soon enough.

You are right yourfriend, Chinese don’t need slaves, you can just continue to blood suck your own people, even better huh?

Because then, you won’t live with the guilt of using slaves, they aren’t! They are patriots and comrades, doing their share for the country! And happily!

How comforting…

January 12, 2009 @ 2:16 pm | Comment

Shut up for a second. I’m Taiwanese. There goes your entire garbage post.

There are poor and rich in every society and China’s income inequality is not worse than Russia’s or India’s or even America’s. Again, that’s not dismissing the problem, but you make it sound like only China does it (as usual) since you are such a whiny obnoxious white person.

January 12, 2009 @ 2:41 pm | Comment

China’s income inequality is not worse than Russia’s or India’s or even America’s

I’m going to call BS on that. Yes, we have a vast disparity between the small group that holds 90 percent of the wealth in America and all the other classes. But we also have a huge middle class; we don’t have 80 percent of our people living in 5th-world poverty. And I know, China’s getting better.) Not only China has this problem, of course, but its class divide is more stark and dramatic than anywhere else, and the numbers are simply staggering, so the attention should come as no surprise.

January 12, 2009 @ 2:51 pm | Comment

If you don’t like China’s government, go back to Europe.

Sigh. Such a little kid sometimes.

January 12, 2009 @ 2:52 pm | Comment

A fact to think, then you may understand Chinese. Those poor people miss Chairman Mao a lot today even Mao is a worse dictator. Why?

China is on the road of a 5000-year repetition. Some poor people became rich and rulers of the country by looting rich people, and after 100 or 200 years, some other poor people did the same thing.

There is no way to save Chinese except to enlighten them to save themselves.

January 12, 2009 @ 2:55 pm | Comment

but its class divide is more stark and dramatic than anywhere else

No it’s not. It’s not as bad as Russia or India and especially Brazil. You did mention that the disparity between Americans of different social classes is less evident because they are, on average, richer. That is true, this shows that greater income equality does not mean you have a better or fairer economy.

A collection of sources on the topic in wikipedia-


Even by the CIA’s estimates, America and China are close. If you’re simply arguing based on the gini coefficient, you don’t have a leg to stand on when you say China’s income inequality is more apparent than anywhere else. India, for example, is close. The main difference is that India’s malnourished and number of people earning less than USD $1 a day outnumber their counterparts in China by at least 3:1. Then there are the lasting scars of the caste system and sometimes a Hindu belief that wealth is a proof of virtue. Then there’s Russia, where wealthy thugs and former KGB have control of a vast black economy and continue to steal natural resources from native Siberians.

Lastly, Hong Kong also has a greater income gap. But they are rich. The problem again is that China lacks funds and development. More needs to be done by the government *and* overseas Chinese, and the wealthy and middle classes in China to alleviate poverty in inland China, but you can’t really say that the “income equality” problem in China is much worse than in other developing countries like India (not even going to mention African/Middle Eastern countries), Brazil or Russia.

Sigh. Such a little kid sometimes.

You’re not getting it. Jeremiah basically said “love it or leave it” or “go back to your country”. I just parroted his words, without the passive-aggressive tone.

January 13, 2009 @ 2:05 am | Comment

I will tell you a secret today yourfriend, and please listen carefully.





Remember that in the coming months.

January 13, 2009 @ 2:20 am | Comment

And seriously think about where it will be coming from when it will happen, I can assure you that it won’t be coming from a filthy white trash foreigner’s mouth.

January 13, 2009 @ 2:27 am | Comment

Yi will NEVER be considered a significant player in the NBA and all of my friends (Chinese or otherwise) seem to think so as well. He simply does not have the talent and most experts agree that the minimal talent he does have will not develop into anything remarkable. He has not brought much to the Nets this year, so it surprises me that he would even be able to receive so many votes despite fenqing support.

Personally, it would be an embarrassment to have my man Lebron James stand beside Yi Jianlian as an all-star starter. (Actually, I think almost any of the Cavs starters (or Hawks, or Celts, or Magic) would be more deserving than Yi.) Voting him first team will destroy the whole honor.

Thanks China, once again ruining it for everyone, I hope the NBA overlooks the market (that’s all you are to them, once it was opium now its basketball) and gives the honor to a deserving player, if you are a real NBA fan you will agree. (I think Mr. Yi might agree as well.)

Please don’t take the NBA any further down the WWF road…

January 13, 2009 @ 4:24 am | Comment

Administrator, sorry but can you please delete my comment just above this one, I made a mistake.

Thank you



this isa China Digital Times article about a girl who signed Charter 08

January 13, 2009 @ 6:39 am | Comment

Snow, I was actually considering a post about that amazing story but don’t have the time or the strength. Thanks for putting down the ink.

January 13, 2009 @ 8:15 am | Comment

filthy white trash foreigner’s

that is indeed what you are

January 13, 2009 @ 11:07 am | Comment

Chinese ruin their own players. The only result is that there will be fewer players from China. Chinese are humiliating themselves by voting Yi to be a All-star starter.

January 13, 2009 @ 9:00 pm | Comment

i’m just happy that yi jianlian is helping carry on a time-honored nba tradition! every year there are dozens of columns or opinion pieces on who should and shouldn’t go to the all-star game (nba and mlb, nobody really cares about nfl and for our non-American brothers and sisters it’s who should be on the national [football]team).

so what if people vote for the chairman just because he’s chinese? people voted for jordan when he was with the wizards just because he was the only basketball player they really knew. the most popular get voted in then the coaches choose the ones who really “earned” it. hell, if i were an nba player i would be happy NOT to play.

January 13, 2009 @ 10:28 pm | Comment


“When offered 60 percent of their wages to disband their protest and go home, the workers pushed back at riot police sent to keep them locked in their factory compound in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan. According to several witnesses, more than 100 irate workers broke through the cordon, some shouting,

“There are no human rights here!”

But you are right yourfriend, who gives a shit about human rights and democracy…



January 14, 2009 @ 2:03 am | Comment

You are a clown, and I’d like to thank you tonight for entertaining us all on this blog.

January 14, 2009 @ 2:09 am | Comment


White Trash, 5000 years of bla bla bla, Taiwan who knows what, Democracy is evil, White people are demons, America is an anomaly, Europe fascists wants to rule the world, Africa was enslaved by the western people… Yellow people should mate yellow people, I’m not living in China and I do not feel the impact of the censorship but I heart China, I’m glad my father paid for my studies oversea. Tibet belongs to the UFO’s and we all know it.

Etc… Etc…

January 14, 2009 @ 2:27 am | Comment

Which brings me to a point Richard, you should really implement a way to secure the ID’s we are using on your blog…

If you want to maintain the comments integrity.


January 14, 2009 @ 2:31 am | Comment

China is evil but I like to speculate in Chinese markets, America has never done any wrong, the Holocaust didn’t happen, there was no trans-Atlantic slave trade, George Bush was never elected, bla bla bla bla, Chen Shui-bian is not corrupt, my Chinese wife didn’t marry me for my money, White people are the real natives of the Americas, Japan was forced to enter WW2 because of embargoes, Communism was invented by China

etc… etc…

January 14, 2009 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

Bao said: derp derp derp, derpdy derp, derp derp!

.who gives a shit about human rights and democracy…

Who said anything about human rights? Human rights and democracy are not related. Democracy did not stop torture in America or the invasion of Iraq. It didn’t stop CSB from ripping Taiwan off either. It doesn’t stop former KGB in Russia, or protect migrants from neo-Nazi skinheads, doesn’t lower Brazils astronomical crime rates, and it doesn’t stop sati and remnants of the caste system in India. Adherence to rule of law makes the biggest difference. That and funds.

January 14, 2009 @ 12:35 pm | Comment

Jeremiah said to yourfriend: “I might suggest, if it makes you feel more comfortable, moving out of the democracy where you currently live to a country whose political system is more suitable to your tastes.”

yourfriend said to Jeremiah: “If you don’t like China’s government, go back to Europe.”

Richard said to yourfriend: “Sigh. Such a little kid sometimes.”

I think Richard is a rascist!

January 14, 2009 @ 2:05 pm | Comment

[…] month I wrote a post on The Peking Duck about how Yi Jianlian represented the best case so far as to why democracy could not possibly work […]

January 27, 2009 @ 8:06 am | Pingback

Chinese NBA fans are also getting credit for voting Tracy McGrady over Chris Paul and Bruce Bowen over Tim Duncan. McGrady has missed many games this season but gets voted because he’s Yao Ming’s teammate.

TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith mentioned Bruce Bowen’s basketball clinics in China as being the source of his overwhelming support.

If Chinese fans could have voted for the All-Star reserves, then perhaps Lakers benchwarmer Sun Yue would have been among the leading candidates to back up Kobe on the West squad.

I believe Yi Jianlian may follow the path of Wang Zhizhi, another seven foot Chinese player who just shot 3 pointers in the NBA and then went back to dominating China’s league.

January 29, 2009 @ 7:31 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.