Nike TV ad 'insults China's dignity'

China has banned a Nike television commercial showing United States basketball star LeBron James in a battle with a cartoon kung fu master, saying the ad insults Chinese national dignity.

The commercial was broadcast on local Chinese stations and on state television’s national sports channel before being pulled last month.

It shows James in a video-game-style setting defeating the kung fu master, two women in traditional Chinese attire and a pair of dragons, considered a sacred symbol in traditional Chinese culture.

The advertisement “violates regulations that mandate that all advertisements in China should uphold national dignity and interest and respect the motherland’s culture”, the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television said on a statement posted on Monday on its website.

“It also goes against rules that require ads not to contain content that blasphemes national practices and cultures.”

The statement added: “The ad has received an indignant response from Chinese viewers.”

It did not say why the advertisement was considered offensive, but communist officials are sensitive about the use of Chinese cultural symbols by Westerners, and might have been especially angered that the Nike advertisement showed the foreigner winning the fight.

In May, the same agency tightened controls over television programming by banning the use of English words and imported programmes that promote “Western ideology and politics”.

Maurice Zhou, a Shanghai spokesperson for the Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike, said the company would respond later on Monday.

The Nike advertisement is part of fast-growing foreign efforts to cash in on the huge popularity of basketball in China and the celebrity status of James and other NBA players.

James is a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers and one of the NBA’s best all-round players. He ranks third in the league in scoring and last week was named the Eastern Conference player of the month.

In an unrelated case, a Chinese cartoonist is suing Nike, claiming that a stick figure in one of its worldwide advertising campaigns was copied from his work.

Zhu Zhiqiang filed suit in July, asking for two million yuan ($240 000) in compensation and a public apology, according to state media.
Nike rejected Zhu’s claims, saying its figure was completely different from his.—Sapa-AP

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