Friday, March 28, 2014

NBA Star Yao Ming Comes to Think Tank Land

The average height of people on think tank row will spike today as a 7-foot 6-inch sports star hangs out at the world's top think tank.

Former NBA star Yao Ming will speak at the Brookings Institution today (March 28) to mark the 35th anniversary of the establishment of US-China relations.

More specifically, he will be hosted by the think tank's John L. Thornton China Center and the China Institute for International Studies (CIIS), a top Chinese think tank.

Yao Ming will be on a panel with NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern.  The event will be broadcast live at 2pm and you can watch it here.

Stern and Ming will discuss the role that basketball has played in US-China relations.  A second panel will discuss US-China relations from the perspective of prominent young scholars from both countries.

Athletes or former athletes speaking at think tank events is extremely rare.  The US State Department, however, often touts sports diplomacy.

In 2008, at a dinner hosted by Brookings marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of US-China diplomatic relations, Dai Bingguo cited Yao Ming as a "star popular among both countries."

In related China news at Brookings, it was announced last month that Cheng Li would be the new director of the John L. Thornton China Center, effective March 3.

Brookings launched the John L. Thornton China Center in 2006, with headquarters in Washington, D.C. and an office in Beijing in partnership with the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University.

In the recently released University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, Brookings was rated as the top think tank in the world, and CIIS was rated as the 36th best think tank in the world.  CIIS was also ranked as the best think tank in China, and the third best among think tanks in Korea, India, Japan, and China.