If ESPN thought shutting down on-air discussion about China and Hong Kong would please its Chinese master and protect the commercial interests of itself and its corporate parent Disney, it’s dead wrong. What China wants is not simply to police a few words on social media or on air. It wants to control American culture, period.
American culture’s global dominance and influence has long been the envy of the Chinese authorities. People around the world may not all like America’s policies, but most seem to have an insatiable appetite for McDonald’s, Taylor Swift, the NBA, and Hollywood movies, regardless of race, ethnicity, and cultural backgrounds.
Chinese leaders closely studied America’s ascent to a global superpower, and they believe America’s cultural influence is a key ingredient to the country’s success. China wants to emulate America’s success, albeit with Chinese characteristics. Former Chinese President Hu Jintao said, “The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will definitely be accompanied by the thriving of Chinese culture.”
Current Chinese President Xi’s “China dream” is not only about expanding China’s economic and military influence globally, but also about cultural dominance — influencing and shaping other countries and their citizens’ views about China, and pushing a widespread acceptance of the Chinese political and economic model.