The Cable

Biden’s basketball diplomacy in Beijing

Vice President Joe Biden is in China to kick off a week-long Asia tour and the first thing he did after arriving at the Beijing airport was to speed over the Olympic basketball arena to take in a game between Georgetown University and the Shanxi Brave Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association.

"Once again, sports diplomacy lives in U.S.-China relations!" Victor Cha, former National Security Council Asia official and Georgetown's director of Asian Studies, told The Cable. Cha is accompanying the team on their tour of China. He compared it to the ping-pong diplomacy between the U.S. and China that helped thaw the relationship ahead of President Richard Nixon's visit there in 1972.

Cha told The Cable that Biden interacted extensively with the Chinese spectators and there were good vibes all around. The loquacious vice president reportedly carried on a conversation in English with an entire section of Chinese spectators, telling jokes and receiving many high-fives. Biden was joined at the game by the new Ambassador to China Gary Locke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, NSC Senior Director for Asia Danny Russel, and China's ambassador to the United States Zhang Yesui.

On the Georgetown delegation, in addition to Cha, were Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia, as well as Chairman of the Board and former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Not only that, the Hoyas beat the Dragons 98-81.

Their next game tomorrow night is against the Bayi Rockets, the Chinese People's Liberation Army team. Cha said that the upcoming game was "a great way to expand people-to-people contacts with the military, another goal of U.S. policy."

But the Hoyas are going to have to conduct that part of their diplomatic effort without Biden's help. He's off to the Southwest China city of Chengdu before returning to Beijing and then heading off to Mongolia and Japan.

The White House said Georgetown's two-week trip to China, "reflects an ongoing push to expand people-to-people exchanges between our two countries, as well as an effort to strengthen the U.S.-China relationship through sport."

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