Kyle Anderson, basketball, china, Chinese, citizenship, naturalization, naturalize, FIBA,

Kyle Anderson, Now A Citizen Of China, To Compete In FIBA Tournament

NBA player Kyle Anderson is now a naturalized citizen of China and will compete for the country in the upcoming FIBA tournament. According to CNN, Anderson, whose Chinese name is Li Kaier, made the announcement with a video posted to his Weibo account.

There are a few ways to obtain Chinese naturalization; in Anderson’s case, since his great-grandfather was Chinese, he is eligible to become a naturalized Chinese citizen. Anderson is the first U.S.-born basketball player to become a Chinese citizen and is considered a great acquisition by the Chinese national team.

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) posted a photo of the 6’9 Timberwolves forward standing next to Yao Ming on its official Weibo account, indicating how highly it views him and captioning the post: “Welcome Anderson! Li Kaier obtained Chinese nationality this morning and met with Yao Ming, chairman of the [CBA].”

It is unclear whether or not Anderson had to renounce his U.S. passport to become naturalized, as China does not recognize dual citizenship. 

Though this is the first time a basketball player has become a naturalized citizen, China has had athletes in other sports do the same. The most notable is U.S.-born freestyle skier Eileen Gu, who won two gold medals and a silver at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. Gu, whose mother is a Chinese immigrant, has not shared whether she was required to renounce her U.S. passport. She raised some suspicion when she applied for the U.S. Presidential Scholarship Program in 2021, which is open only to United States citizens or permanent residents. Gu has also been guarded when answering questions about her citizenship status, often telling reporters some variation of “When I’m in China, I’m Chinese. When I’m in the U.S., I’m American.”

Dual citizenship regarding its athletes is something the Chinese government does not comment on, mostly because it has strict rules around citizenship but appears to perhaps skirt them to accommodate athletes. China’s first naturalized athlete was Canadian heptathlete Nina Schulz, known by her Chinese name, Zheng Ninali, who competed in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

There are also a few naturalized athletes who compete in China’s Super League, and the majority of China’s men’s ice hockey team is naturalized, so it seems that China is attempting to broaden its pool of athletes via naturalization.

This practice is a subject of debate in China. Charlotte Brooks, a history professor at Baruch College at the City University of New York, describes the conflict between identity and national governments, telling the South China Morning Post, “Unfortunately, nationalism tends to be very limited and monogamous in a way that it’s defined… It’s a strange way to talk about it, but people’s identities are often really much more complicated than what national governments are comfortable with or allow or recognize.”

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