by Hugo Polanco

Chinese, Taiwanese, or American. How exactly do you classify Jeremy Lin. For those that have been living under a rock these past months, or just don’t care about basketball, Jeremy Lin is a new international superstar playing for the New York Knicks. Lin is an interesting man, and far different from the average NBA superstar. For one his rise to fame was rapid and almost completely unexpected. Up until a few months ago, Lin was an unknown third rate player mostly warming the bench for various teams and living off his brother’s couch to save money. This is in stark contrast to other players of equivalent skill, whose careers are traced throughout college, and whose rise to stardom are closely anticipated. Lin may have been ignored until now because of his ethnic origin. It is clear that Black Americans and European or European descended players dominate the league. The only other Asian players are giant men, who look like they were designed in a lab in China to play center and who like Yao Ming were trained by the government since birth to play basketball. Lin at 6’4’’, with a fluid style of play, Harvard Education and American birth is in stark contrast to this norm. His rise to stardom has been dubbed “Linsanity” and while in the United States the furor surrounding his rise has subsided, in Asia Lin is still King. Newspapers in Taiwan and China comment in great length over his strategy, his jerseys are still sold out, and sports bars become flooded with eager fans during ever Knicks game. But seeing his immense popularity in China, Taiwan and the United States only begs the question, what is he?

This question is not easily answered, for one all three terms are not exactly mutually exclusive. His American identity is clear for one, no one but the most ardent bigot would deny that the American born and raised Lin is American. The confusion lies in his Chinese and Taiwanese identity. Again these two terms are not exactly mutually  exclusive but they have spouted a heated debate amongst Taiwanese and Chinese commentators and opened  a whole new array of issues over the broader Taiwanese identity. To start off, Lin’s parent’s are both from Taiwan and later emigrated to the United States making his connection to Taiwan clear. The Chinese claim to Lin lies is based on two arguments. One is that his grandmother is Chinese born and was one of the millions of Chinese that fled to Taiwan following the end of the Chinese Civil War. The other argument is that all Taiwanese are Chinese anyways since Taiwan is a renegade province that should be reunited with the mainland. This second argument if anything infuriates some Taiwanese. After 100 years of near total political separation from the mainland, a new Taiwanese identity has emerged. Because English lacks a neat term to differentiate between ethnic Chinese, which unequivocally includes Lin and most Taiwanese, and political Chinese, which includes only residents of the PRC, using the term Chinese to describe Lin can set off a raw nerve amongst some people.

For his part Lin has managed this perilous walk between all three sides incredibly well. He has acted like the filial son of quarreling divorced parents. He was not overtly taken any sides and has cemented his relationship with both areas by frequently visiting Taiwan and by taking a trip to pay homage to his grandmother’s hometown in China. It certainly helps that this stance has raked in untold profits from Chinese and Taiwanese merchandise sales but Lin represents a bright spot in cross-strait relations. It is certainly shocking that an American born basketball player has joined with Sun Yat-sen to be one of the few individuals subject to adulation on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.   


This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not those of Arizona Model United Nations.

This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.

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