China’s New Celebrity Culture
It will be THE game of Day 1 of men’s basketball at the Beijing Olympics: China vs. the United States, the 21st century’s emerging superpower challenging the 20th century’s titan.
The new 18,000-seat arena is already sold out. Many will be watching for just one of the hoopsters expected on court that Aug. 10 night: Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 chiseled giant from Shanghai who has made it big in America’s NBA.
Just three decades ago — a heartbeat historically but a lifetime in a country changing as fast as China — the Communist Party allowed just one person to tower above the rest: Mao Zedong. As the toiling masses were made to recite, he was China’s Great Helmsman, its Great Leader (“May he live forever!”), the “Reddest Sun in our Hearts.” Propaganda posters showed Mao with a Jesus-like aura.