Forget about Yao Ming. He was so 2010. Since last weekend, Chinese have a new star whom they are willing to give up sleeping in on a Saturday morning to watch.This is not a dream. Jeremy Lin, or Lin Shuhao (林书豪) as his Chinese fans prefer to call him, has become a “legend” in China almost over night. Linsanity has spread across half of the globe to China, a country Lin owes part of his cultural heritage to.
On Weibo, Lin stays on top of the most talked about topics for over a week. From “Lin Shuhao Led Team to Seven Consecutive Wins” early last week and “Lin Shuhao Appears on the Cover of Time Magazine” (the current No. 1 searched topic on Weibo) a few days later, to “Lin Shuhao’s Fable Ended” on Saturday morning (Beijing time) and “Lin Shuhao 28 Points 14 Assists Defeated Mavericks” the next day, topics about Lin are getting tens of thousands of comments each day. 新浪NBA, the official weibo account of the largest Chinese portal website sina.com, calls him “the light of Asia,” and claims that “Linsanity has already become the hottest word in 2012.”
Lin’s Weibo account has almost 2 million followers, making his less than half a million followers worldwide on Twitter a quite moderate-sized crowd. Lin opened his bilingual Weibo account on May 8 last year and received instant attention. Lin had more than 10,000 Weibo followers only ten days after he set up his account, which was a surprise to him. “You guys are even cooler than my American fans, haha!,” he posted that day.
But it was his miraculous debut performances with NY Knicks that won him unprecedented popularity as an athlete with a non-Chinese citizenship. Even after Knicks were defeated by the Hornets on Friday, the fans still regarded him as a sort of demigod. As a fan defended him on Weibo, “He’s already a god. Nobody in this world can win all the time.”
While interest in Lin’s religion has been growing in the U.S. media, Chinese are quite indifferent to it perhaps partly because of the Chinese media’s downplay of the topic. Instead, people in China are more interested in Lin’s nationality and cultural identity.
Many Chinese are proud to share the same cultural heritage with him, but at the same time respect his American identity. People on Weibo have commented on the rumor that has been going around that China is trying to get Lin to play for the Chinese basketball team. “No matter how great Lin Shuhao is, he is an ABC (America Born Chinese), not Chinese, so some media professionals should show some respect,” a fan wrote. Another fan jokingly wrote, “Chinese say he’s Chinese, Americans say he’s American, South Koreans say he has Korean blood, and Taiwanese say you all shut up, he’s Taiwanese! He is Lin Shuhao who has swept the entire America.” “Lin Shuhao, I’ll support you forever. Asking you to come back to [China] to play is just a joke…” another fan wrote.
When it comes to allegiance to the Chinese cultural identity, some Chinese can be quite dogmatic. Just recently there was a public commotion over a Beijing University professor Kong Qingdong’s derogatory remarks concerning Hong Kongers’ post-colonial identities. However, in Lin’s case, although nationalist comments appear here and there, most Chinese fans seem to be pretty relaxed about Lin’s American identity, which can be considered a quite special treatment from the often relentless netizens in China. Just recently, Yao Ming had to publicly confirm that his daughter’s citizenship was American, and defend himself, saying that his daughter could change her nationality to Chinese when she’s eighteen.
Truth is, deep down, Chinese, perhaps not unlike Chinese Americans, are super psyched about this talented young man who is fast, strong, smart, and, most importantly, who wins. And no matter what, it looks that the Linanity is still going strong in China and it’s not going anywhere any time ssoon.