NBA superstar LeBron James publicly criticized Daryl Morey and received a wave of attacks in the United States. Many U.S. congressmen criticized James, and many internet posts are shaming him. For example, he was painted on a 100-yuan note to demonstrate his allegiance to the Chinese flag. He became the "typical face of Chinese money" overnight.
This situation gave Chinese society the extremely strong impression that assertions of free speech in the United States are fake, that public speech must actually be based in political correctness. In other words, Morey’s support of the Hong Kong demonstrations, which is in line with the political correctness of the United States, falls under freedom of speech and requires strong protection. When James criticized Morey, however, he was not politically correct and thus not protected by freedom of speech.
Both James and Morey have published honest statements, but they have faced very different responses in the U.S. One is held up as a hero, and one is treated like a villain. This response is too dramatic. Further, this is a story that developed at the heart of freedom of expression, as if it were specifically designed to showcase what American freedom of speech is all about.
People also have a strong impression that American nationalism is growing increasingly more intense. An important difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the former has a clear sense of acting in defense, while the latter shows signs of acting on offense. The intensity of negative opinions about China instigated by radical elites in the United States is on the rise. The radical elites have shown a strong impulse to initiate an attack on China. By supporting Morey, they turn "freedom of speech" into a tool for attacking China. This has become their current collective goal.
Interestingly, these radical American elites are quite hypocritical. While doing things that undermine the relationship between China and the United States as well as international stability, they also operate under the guise of protecting freedom of speech. Applying such double standards, their moral outlook appears very confusing, but they still claim a sense of righteousness no matter what they do. Now, they are turning this principle of freedom of speech into a "clever ghost" that bends to the sensibilities of U.S. national interests.
The geopolitical tension between China and the United States has intensified moral friction between the two sides. Once an incident begins, it becomes increasingly difficult to balance the national interests of both sides. World peace and stability require both Chinese and American society to demonstrate tolerance while maintaining their own value systems, leaving room for people and institutions to engage in cross-cultural communication.
This is not easy for China or the U.S. to achieve, but the difficulty for China mainly comes from the internet. Luckily, there is no lack of institutional force to overcome this difficulty in Chinese society. The difficulty for the United States is more embedded in the national media. By using everything from internet actors to mainstream media organizations to politicians such as members of Congress, the U.S. has worked to suppress James’ perspective in the U.S.-China NBA conflict. In doing so, it has woven an iron curtain in which there are almost no gaps.
The NBA games were held in Shanghai and Shenzhen, China, as scheduled, and China's internet giant, Tencent, has also resumed broadcasting NBA games. However, the United States’ reaction to James’ criticism has become a prominent sticking point. We will learn more by considering various aspects of this situation collectively.
The United States is a fervently political country, and its ideology is often extreme. American society is at the top of the list of countries in which people deviate from being politically correct. From now on, when the United States promotes universal values such as freedom of speech to the world, it should first be honest and respect these values within the U.S., then use the country as a starting point for discussions with the rest of the world.