The NBA can win a standoff with China

History also has lessons here. In 2012, for example, a Chinese boycott of Japanese cars broke out in response to a fight between the two countries over territorial claims in the East China Sea. Japanese car companies’ market share in China plunged 12 percent in a month. But then sales came back by the end of the year. “Chinese consumer boycotts have historically been short-lived and relatively painless,” Minter wrote — further noting that the NBA’s popularity in China dwarfs that of any particular car brand.

According to CNBC, there’s a growing sense within the NBA that ultimately that popularity will win out. “Some diplomacy will be necessary,” but “they are going to want the NBA back,” one executive said.

Thus far, the fear has been that those hundreds of millions of Chinese fans were an advantage China could hold over the NBA. Eventually, the latter would throw American values overboard in order to keep the money rolling in.

But that’s a sword that cuts both ways: Now that China has let the proverbial camel’s nose of capitalist consumerism into the tent, the NBA can hold those fans and their dissatisfaction over the Chinese government as well. And American basketball may well discover its leverage is the greater.