Time magazine reports that China’s state-run media, Xinhua, has called on Jeremy Lin to renounce his U.S. citizenship and join the Chinese Olympic Team. The article speculates about whether or not Lin should, and includes quotes encouraging Lin to play for China’s since the U.S. Olympic team doesn’t think he makes the cut since he hasn’t played long enough.
Jeremy Lin is Taiwanese American. Most of his family has been in Taiwan as long as most white people have been in America; they moved to Taiwan to get away from China and find a better life.
Only one of his four grandparents is from China. She was a Christian and she fled China for Taiwan in the 1950s. Like many waishengren, she did not feel safe in China. If she had stayed in China, she would not have been able to openly practice her religion—the same religion she has clearly passed down to her grandson.
Successful athletes of Taiwanese descent are bribed to denounce their Taiwanese heritage. Taiwanese women’s golf prodigy and current No. 1 ranked Yani Tseng was offered $25 million by a Chinese company to change her citizenship from Taiwanese to Chinese.
The Chinese are more than happy to “reclaim” Lin, even though the only reason he has had the opportunity to be what he is today—an openly Christian, American NBA player— is because he is a Taiwanese American.
Add in the additional context that many Taiwanese hold citizenship in the United States or have moved their family to the United States in part because China has tons of missiles aimed at Taiwan, the freedom of Taiwan is at stake, and they feel American citizen is a safer and more prosperous bet.
Jeremy Lin grew up American, and learned his moves from watching VHS tapes of Jordan, Magic, Kareem with his immigrant father. Rather than examining the oppressive structures that have made it difficult for Jeremy Lin to play for America or Taiwan in the first place, now it looks like Americans are more than happy to speculate that Lin secretly harbors loyalty for China, simply because he has an Asian face.
Simply because China thinks that it has the right to tell Taiwanese Americans who and what we are.
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