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Talking Points, June 17 - July 1, 2009

This week's Talking Points looks at basketball in the U.S. and in China and as always provides information about China-centered events, exhibitions, and screenings across North America.

June 17, 2009

USC U.S.-China Institute Weekly Newsletter

Talking Points
June 17 - July 1, 2009

"At first my boyfriend loves Kobe, then I love him more than my boyfriend. He is so strong, charming and aggressive…. Most important is his faultless performance on the basketball court."
           Yao Di, a Beijing fan, quoted by USA Today on August 21, 2008

Today was the Lakers National Basketball Association championship celebration. Tens of thousands of people lined the parade route along Figueroa Boulevard from Staples Center to the Coliseum where more than 95,000 awaited the triumphant team. The procession went right by the USC U.S.-China Institute offices. Here are a couple of photos:

Upper photos from USCI offices of buses with Laker players, family members, and employees. Photo at right of Kobe Bryant by Eric Richardson.

The NBA is aiming at a global audience. U.S. media cutbacks resulted in fewer American journalists covering the final series than in the past, but the drop was more than made up by journalists from foreign papers and broadcast outlets. China, of course, looms large in the NBA’s plans. Back in September 2007, Talking Points noted the NBA was opening a China subsidiary. Games have been broadcast there for many years, but now the league has television deals with 51 different Chinese broadcasters. The NBA's Chinese site often gets more visitors than the American one. Other investors in NBA China include Disney’s ESPN, Legend Holdings (a computer company and property developer), the Li Ka Shing Foundation (the charitable arm of a Hong Kong conglomerate), and the investment arms of the Bank of China and China Merchants Bank.

Kobe Bryant is the sport’s biggest star and, as the quote above suggests, his fans are passionate. And they spend money. Figueroa Street was filled with Bryant jerseys today, but Kobe’s jersey is the NBA’s topseller worldwide. In China, only Yao Ming’s number 11 outsells Kobe’s number 24. The picture below hints at the market penetration of these goods (both licensed and pirated). We snapped this photo last summer at a street stall in Pingyao, a small city in the Shanxi coal region.

The China market is so important to Nike, that it created a reality show which ran on one of the Central Chinese television networks last spring. Kobe Disciples (Kobe mentu Kobe 门徒) had Kobe and others putting 24 Chinese athletes through a rigorous training program.

China’s top basketball league is the Chinese Basketball Association, which was created in 1995. Some NBA players such as superstar Yao Ming and Laker reserve Sun Yue got their professional starts in the CBA. A number of Americans play in the CBA, Lee Benson was among the stars of the 2008-2009 season, averaging 34 points a game for the Shaanxi Kylins (陕西麒麟). Benson’s 35 years old, big, 6’11”, and has had an unusual career. A high school star, Benson served 8 ½ years in prison for dealing drugs and using a gun to abduct and threaten a man in an argument over a drug deal. Some Americans who have played in China later reached the NBA. Chris Anderson, the “Birdman,” now with the Denver Nuggets played for the Jiangsu Dragons. The Guangdong Southern Tigers defeated the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the CBA finals in May.

Some in China aren’t content rooting for or even owning CBA franchises. Late last month, a Chinese consortium announced it was seeking to buy 15% of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Sports occupies a privileged place in U.S.-China relations. Ping pong diplomacy helped advance our ties 28 years ago. It’s a safe bet, though, that no one who saw those friendship matches between the U.S. and China would have guessed that the Kobe Bryant/Lebron James puppet commercials would be on Chinese television or that American sports agents would be trolling Chinese high schools and colleges looking for basketball talent.

Congratulations to the Hurendui (湖人队 – Lakers) and belated congratulations to the Guangdong Southern Tigers.


Filmmaker Frederick Marx is best known as the producer of Hoop Dreams, the Academy Award-nominated film about high school players with NBA ambitions. One of his first films, though, was Dreams from China which he filmed in Beijing and Tianjin in the 1980s. On Thursday, he will screen a rough cut of his new film, Journey from Zanskar. The film focuses on sacrifices Tibetan families in a corner of Northern India make in order to secure an education for their children and to preserve their culture. We hope you can join us. Details are below and in the calendar section of our website.

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06/18/2009: Journey from Zanskar
USC, Taper Hall 202, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Time: 7:00PM - 9:00PM
Cost: Free
Filmmaker Frederick Marx, producer of Academy Award nominated “Hoop Dreams,” will be premiering a rough cut of his new film.06/18/2009: Journey from ZanskarFilmmaker Frederick Marx, producer of Academy Award nominated “Hoop Dreams,” will be premiering a rough cut of his new film.
07/27/2009: 2009 Summer Residential Seminar at USC
USC, Davidson Conference Center
Los Angeles, CA 90089
For more information please visit:
An intensive nine-day equivalent of our "East Asia and New Media in My Classroom" professional development seminar for K-12 teachers employed outside of the greater Los Angeles area.


06/24/2009 - 06/25/2009: Crude Oil
Hammer Museum Gallery 6
Time: 11:30am
Cost: Free
An audacious undertaking for both filmmaker and audience, this film installation documents a workday at a remote Chinese oil field, from a stolen nap in a break room to the massive drills plunging into the earth.

06/27/2009: First Emperor
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main St, Santa Ana, 92706
Phone: (714) 567-3600
Time: 1:30PM
Based on the latest research, including location photography at key sites in China, this film sheds new light on the achievements, ambitions, and legacy of the enigmatic First Emperor of China—an emperor who wished to reign for all eternity. 40 minutes.
07/01/2009: Urban China: Jiang Jun & Benjamin Godsil
Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone: 310.443.7000
Time: 7pm - 9pm
The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles presents a talk on urban China by Jiang Jun and Benjamin Godsil in conjunction with their ongoing exhibition "Urban China: Informal Cities". 

North America 

06/19/2009: The Financial Crisis and the Changing Role of Workers in China
Rayburn House Office Building, Room B-318
Time: 10:00AM - 11:30AM
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China present a roundtable discussion on the financial crisis and worker's roles in China.  

06/22/2009: Buddhist Traditions of Tibet and the Himalayas (NEH Seminar)
Contact: Todd Lewis
Phone: 508-793-3436
The College of the Holy Cross a summer program focusing on the study of Buddhism in Tibetan and the Himalayas.  

06/23/2009: Transatlantic Perspectives on China
George Washington University
Room 113 The Elliott School of International Affairs 1957 E Street, NW, Ground Floor Washington DC
Time: 5:30PM - 7:00PM
The Sigur Center for Asian Studies' China Policy Program presents a conference about transatlantic perspectives on Chinese government and society.  

06/26/2009 - 06/28/2009 : Locating Taiwan: Space, Culture and Society
The University of Texas at Austin
The College of Liberal Arts Building, Bats Hall and Mez Hall, Austin, TX
The 15th Annual North American Taiwan Studies Conference  
06/26/2009: North American Taiwan Studies Association Conference
University of Texas
Austin, Austin, Texas
The The 15th Annual North American Taiwan Studies Conference at The University of Texas at Austin. 


04/11/2009 - 07/13/2009: Treasures through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection
Boone Gallery, The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA
An exhibition of Chinese painting and calligraphy highlighting works spanning 900 years

04/22/2009 - 07/15/2009: Eternal Sky: Reviving the Art of Mongol Zurag
IEAS Conference Room
2223 Fulton Street, 3rd floor
The Institute of East Asian Studies at UC Berkeley presents an exhibition of the work of artist Narmandakh Tsultem, who paints in the traditional Mongol Zurag style.

02/10/2009 - 08/09/2009: Asian Journeys: Collecting Art in Post-war America
Asia Society and Museum
Address: 725 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021
Phone: 212-517-ASIA
Asia Society and Museum in New York presents John D. Rockefeller 3rd's exceptional collection of Asian art, as well as that of their adviser Sherman E. Lee.

11/03/2008 - 11/03/2009: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture. 

11/14/2008 - 11/14/2009: Chinese Art: A Seattle Perspective
Seatle Asian Art Museum
1400 East Prospect Street , Volunteer Park , Seattle, WA 98112–3303
The Seattle Asian Art Museum presents an opportunity to see a collection with representative works from each dynastic period. 

11/15/2008 - 11/15/2009: Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
The Bowers Museum presents a collection of exquisite textiles and silver jewelry that highlights the beauty and wealth of the Miao peoples of southwest China. 

02/12/2009 - 02/12/2010: Art of Adornment: Tribal Beauty
Bowers Museum
2002 N. Main, Santa Ana, CA
Cost: $5
An exhibit featuring body adornments from indigenous peoples around the world


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We provide information about China-related events as a community service. If you would like your event considered for inclusion in the USCI calendar, please click here to submit event details.

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USC U.S. – China Institute
3535 S. Figueroa St.
FIG 202
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1262
Tel: 213-821-4382
Fax: 213-821-2382

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