Why understanding diplomacy is the No.1 rule for navigating the Chinese sports market (a Chinese perspective on the Rockets/NBA fallout)

Published 21 October 2019 By: Guo Cai


On 13 September 2019, the author was privileged to discuss the topic of sports diplomacy on a distinguished panel entitled “Diplomacy, Exploring the Relationship between Sports, Global Politics and the Law”, at the 5th annual LawInSport Conference held in London. Though our time on the panel to dissect such a complex issue was limited, the author appreciated the opportunity to touch upon the pivotal role of diplomacy in shaping the sport sector in China, and why understanding sports diplomacy is the first rule of thumb for anyone interested in building healthy, sustainable presence in the Chinese sport market.

Using the NBA’s recent fallout with China as an example, this article purports to elaborate on the issues touched upon on the panel (available for LawInSport Plus members to view here1). Specifically, it explains:

  • Why the Houston Rockets and NBA have faced public criticism in China;

  • The importance of diplomacy when navigating China’s sports market; and

  • Key points for sports organisations and stakeholders when engaging with Chinese fans.


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Guo Cai

Guo Cai

Attorney, Jin Mao Law Firm

Ms. Guo Cai oversees the LexVeritas Sports and International Law Group, Jin Mao Law Firm (People's Republic of China), the first Chinese law firm to have a practice group dedicated to the sports industry. Ms. Cai graduated from Harvard Law School and China University of Political Science and Law. She also held an LLM in Human Rights (distinction) from the University of Hong Kong. Admitted to practice in China and the US (New York), Ms. Cai specialises in international dispute resolution and sports law, growing with the Chinese sports industry and connecting international best practice with sports in China.

蔡果律师是金茂律师事务所(中国)体育产业与国际法组的负责人。 金茂律师事务所是首家投入体育产业并专设服务组的中国律师事务所。蔡果律师毕业于哈佛法学院和中国政法大学,并以第一名获得香港大学人权法硕士学位。蔡果律师具备中华人民共和国与美国纽约州执业资格,专攻国际争议解决与体育法,致力结合国际最佳标准,与中国体育产业共同成长。


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