Joseph Tsai Rumors
Few know the Chinese market better than Tsai, who co-founded online retailer Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. , China’s most valuable company. Yet even he couldn’t say on Tuesday how the matter will be resolved — or whether the preseason games would be played as scheduled. “I hope so,” he said, speaking by phone from Shanghai.
Tsai said he is trying to play the role of peacemaker in the dispute. He declined to get into details about his conversations with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and league officials, and wouldn’t disclose whether he was having any discussions with Chinese officials, saying only: “I’m in the eye of the storm.” He said he views his job as cultural translator: explaining to the Chinese and American sides why each other is so angry. “I’ve communicated with a bunch of people on both sides and my role is to help everyone understand the other side’s perspective,” he said.
One of his first efforts was to post an open letter on Facebook explaining why Morey’s posts offended so many Chinese people. He intended it to be a brief history lesson about how foreign powers such as Britain and Japan have abused China over the past centuries. “When the topic of any separatist movement comes up, Chinese people feel a strong sense of shame and anger because of this history of foreign occupation,” he said.
Boiling down a highly complex issue into a paragraph or two, though, in China, this isn’t about civil liberty. According to Tsai, and others interviewed by The Athletic, it’s about national sovereignty, and about everyone playing by the same rules. Hong Kong is a part of China, and the people there should play by the same rules as the people on the mainland. Hong Kong, once a British colony, was transferred to Chinese rule in 1997. Referring to Hong Kong or Macao or any Chinese territory as anything other than part of China is a major offense to the Chinese government, which sanctions businesses that make the mistake. In the past several months, Gap, Versace, and Coach have all been rebuked by the Chinese government for doing this very thing.
Those who know Tsai describe him as smart and low key, someone who intentionally stayed in the shadow of the eloquent and high-profile Ma because he believed that a company needed only one spokesman. In recent years, Tsai gradually drifted out of Ma’s shadow. He has appeared at tech conferences and given talks at Lawrenceville and Yale, but has rarely spoken about politics.