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UCLA Basketball Team Shoplifting case

On November 8th, three freshmen basketball
players from the UCLA Men’s Basketball team were arrested in China for
shoplifting at three different high-end stores. Not soon after the arrest bail
had been made and the three boys were placed in holding in their hotel room.
The three freshman players are LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley. The
reason for the UCLA basketball teams visit to China was so that they could take
part in their season opening basketball game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai.
An interesting factor related to this case is that the day after the
shoplifting incident occurred, President Donald Trump was set to arrive in
China for one of his stops on his 12-day Asia Tour. Before arriving
in China, President Trump was unaware that the three players were being
detained for shoplifting (Mather, 2017).  

In a meeting between President Trump and President Xi Jinpin
of China, he had asked if President Xi was aware that the American basketball
players were being held in China (Reuters, 2017). President Xi had denied any
knowledge of what was occurring with the players. However, once informed,
President Xi sent out one of his staff to assess the situation (Erickson,
2017). In their troubling situation, and facing potential jail time, the three
UCLA players had asked President Trump for assistance in getting them released.
After a short period of time, President Trump was successful in getting them
released, and also had the ability to get the charges taken down to a
misdemeanor. The players were then sent back to California.  On November
15, 2017 at a press conference in Los Angeles, LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and
Cody Riley had in fact thanked President Trump for his involvement in getting
them released from China then further apologized saying they know the actions
they had previously committed were wrong. The three boys had also thanked
President Xi for allowing them to leave and for dismissing the charges against
them. However, they also were indefinitely suspended from the team, and the
team is unaware of when they will return to workouts, or practices. UCLA’s
athletic director Dan Guerrero, said “we will come to resolution in short
order” (Harris, 2017). Thanks to the digression of President Xi and the
positive relationship shared by The United States and China, the situation was
able to be resolved peacefully. 

Although this situation takes place in modern times, it is
possible to relate the outcome of this situation to past historical events
between the two nations. It is well known that through history the United
States and China have been in conflict with one another numerous times. The
conflicts had begun in the earlier years of China from 221 BC to AD 1912
(Smith, 1996). During this duration of time China saw their country to be the
Middle Kingdom, and the source of all civilization, and saw themselves as
better than any other nation (Smith, 1996). Due to this, they believed that all
other civilizations were barbaric, and had nothing of significance to offer
China or it’s people (Smith,1996). Another attribute that showed China’s
distaste for the West was during the reign of Qianlong, he had denied Great
Britain’s request for more trade. That was a daring move made by China,
since during that time Great Britain had the strongest military (Smith, 1996).
Another major conflict was during the Opium Wars, which is when China had cut
off all trade with the West besides the Dutch because the opium trade was
destroying China’s economy (Ebrey, pg 317). In the early years the major
conflicts that arose portrayed the West negatively to China, so China chose to
uninvolve themselves with the West. Once China refused to trade with Great
Britain, the British retaliated and shut down major ports of Ningbo and Tianjin
(Ebrey, pg 317). After a while, the Qing government had no choice but to agree
to terms with the British. The government had then signed The Treaty of Nanjing
(Ebrey, pg 317). The problem with this treaty is it had provided many benefits to
China, but none to China, which made the treaty unequal. A major problem was
that British citizens could only answer to the British government, even in
disputes with the Chinese (Ebrey, pg 317). This is a prime example of why China
had wanted to avoid association with the West, because they found them greedy
and vicious.  

However, at the end of the second Opium War, you can see the
change in the opinion about the West in China. In 1861 with the new ruler
Prince Gong, and his mother Empress Dowager Cixi acting as regents, a new ideal
began to take place (Ebrey, pg 322). This is when a scholar by the name of Feng
Guifen had written essays stating that all though China was much larger than
Western nations, the West was still surpassing them in school, military
power, among other aspects (Ebrey, pg 322). From those letters a new
movement arose, known as the Self-Strengthening movement. Because of this
change in opinion, China had begun to focus more on the West and actually,
adopted some of their ideals, to try and make China a greater power. In the
end, China had failed to reform, and did not successfully modernize themselves.
In 1911 the New Cultural Movement set forth again tried to properly modernize
China (Ebrey, pg 420). Then later with the Industrial Development China began
to see success with a new modern economy (Ebrey, pg 422). The positive outcomes
that came from China being able to modernize itself, showed a better relation
with the West. Although China was looking to the West for ways to better modernize
the nation, they still had never been on the same side of a military conflict.
This can be seen through the major wars the United States and China have taken
part in WWI, WWII, the Korean war, and the Vietnam war. Since the conflicts
ended the two nations have collectively been at peace with one another, and
have been in great relations with each other. Previously in history much of
China’s conflicts were with all Western countries, then migrated more towards
the United States when it became a super power. However, China was able to see
that although they had once seen the West as inferior, they soon learned that
it was very important to adapt to Western ways. With the new-found peace
between China and the U.S., the most notable diplomacy during this period was
The Ping Pong Diplomacy. Why this was so historically important is because it
was the first time a group of Americans had been invited to China since the
Communist takeover in 1949 (Devoss, 2002). The Ping Pong Diplomacy set forth
the known knowledge that the relations between the United States and China were
finally on good terms. It is also known that China as a nation enjoys sports,
and therefore it makes sense that China used sports to show they were at peace
with the United States.  

From the colorful past between China and the West, and the
new-found respect that China and the U.S. have, situations such as the UCLA
shoplifting case it allows for faster results and the ability to come to a
compromise. However, shoplifting in China has historically been considered a
major crime, where there is a potential to serve anywhere from 5 to 10 years in
prison (Trump, 2017); whereas in the United States shoplifting is considered
petty theft and you only have to pay a fine, depending on the amount stolen.
But because of the strong respect now held between the U.S. and China, this
matter was able to be resolved quickly. So, although the crime that LiAngelo
Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley committed is punishable by years in jail,
Trump was able to get the charges knocked down to a misdemeanor and had the
boys sent back to California. The historical context leading up to this matter
shows that through conflict can come resolution. Although, you can still tie
this into the Treaty of Nanjing, and say that essentially the U.S. basketball
players were not answering to China, they were only answering to the United
States, being unequal to China. Even though China previously despised the West,
with their ability to learn from Western nations and through conflict allowed
for this situation to not be seen as a major foreign crisis. Along with the
good political relationship that is held by both President Trump and President
Xi. Because of the past, the two nations were able to meet and come to an
agreement and not allow the situation to affect the peace. The outcome of the
situation involving the basketball players was able to be linked to historical
context, as well as historical contextual readings, and shows the positive
relationship that is currently shared by the West and China.  



















Work Cited

Devoss, D.
(2002, April 01). Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from 


Ebrey, P. B.,
Walthall, A., & James, P. (2009). Modern East Asia from 1600.
Brantford, Ont.: W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library. 


Erickson, A.
(2017, November 22). Trump says the shoplifting UCLA players faced 10 years in
jail. That’s wrong. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from 


Hannon, E.
(2017, November 19). Trump Tweets “I Should Have Left Them in Jail” About UCLA
Basketball Players Arrested in China. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from 


B. (2017, November 15). 3 UCLA basketball players suspended after theft in
China. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from 


Mather, V.
(2017, November 15). U.C.L.A. Suspends 3 Players; They Admitted to Shoplifting
in China. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from 


Smith, R. J.
(1996). Chinese maps: images of “All under Heaven”. Oxford:
Oxford Univ. Press. 


V. (n.d.). Some experts say Trump’s tweets on LaVar Ball could be racially
coded. Retrieved December 06, 2017, from 


Trump, D. J.
(2017, November 22). It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department,
it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his
son out of a long term prison sentence – IT WAS ME. Too bad! LaVar is just a
poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think.. Retrieved
November 24, 2017 


Basketball Players Arrested in China a Day Before Trump Arrives. (n.d.).
Retrieved November 24, 2017, from