In America, Jeremy Lin is a unique story. He is an Asian American from Harvard who is lighting up the court for the New York Knicks, but in other parts of the world his story could be used for more nefarious purposes.
In Asia, especially in China and Taiwan, basketball is a hugely popular sport. College teams and pro players spend their off seasons barnstorming China, this summer there was a highly publicized game between Georgetown and a Chinese team that ended in violence.
Prior to Yao Ming's retirement from the NBA, he was routinely voted into the All-Star game despite less than star performances thanks to a huge block of support from China.
But now Lin is causing some difficulties along racial lines in Asia. Lin's father Gie-Ming and his mother Shirley are both ethnically Chinese but both of their families immigrated to Taiwan before they were born, so both were born in Taiwan.
Lin's parents came to California from Taiwan in in the mid-70s before the birth of their children making their sons Americans.
But, back in Asia, Lin's ethnicity is a bit of a political football. The Chinese do not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation; they call it Chinese Taipei and claim that the island, which is 74 miles off the coast, is part of China. That claim comes from the Cairo Conference from 1943. That conference, which was part of the peace process that ended World War II stated that, All the territories Japan has stolen from China, including Manchuria, Taiwan and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China.
However, that treaty was not legally binding as the Japanese had not yet surrendered and therefore was more a statement of intent than a legally binding document. The status of Taiwan has been in a grey area ever since.
The Taiwanese declared themselves a separate entity in 2007, using the name The Republic of China, after 50 years of nominal control by the People's Republic of China.
As a result, relations between the PRC government in Beijing and the ROC government in Taipei City are tense.
This is tension in playing out inside the story of Lin's ascension. Local media in both the PRC and ROC are covering Lin as closely as American media; however the dispute over his ethnicity is being waged as part of the stories.
The popular web cartoon NWA.TV, which is based in Taiwan, released a video about Lin with a not so subtle image of the player knocking Yao Ming out with flaming basketballs then taking his place in front of an enormous PRC flag. The message is a not so subtle, Lin is replacing Ming as top dog. In some Chinese media outlet reports, references to Taiwan are deleted or edited including blurring the ROC flag or eliminating the logos of Taiwanese media.
Though none of this really effects the American fan on a day-to-day basis, it could have incredible impact on how Lin and how the NBA is viewed in China. Given the NBA's aggressive attempts to globalize the game it will be interesting to see if Lin's ethnicity puzzle is a help or a hindrance in his marketability in basketball crazy Asia.