Friday, March 16, 2012


China found another hero in Jeremy Lin, whose success gave birth to a new word "Linsanity". The lightning and stratospheric ascent of Jeremy Lin in popularity among the Chinese seems to suggest that they are rather desperately in search of heroes and ready to overlook minor details of origin and political belief (Jeremy Lin is a Christian with his origins in Taiwan) in their embrace of such icons.

The psychology of this quest for heroes possibly lies in the Chinese desire for celebration of their achievements as well as international recognition of their success. While China is continuously adding to its list of achievements domestically, international recognition is often not forthcoming or comes begrudgingly. Even if recognition is accorded, it comes with a spectre of Chinese dominance. While Western nations refuse to applaud China's achievements, Western brands need to make sure that they do so – or else they will lose the opportunity for emotional connection with the Chinese.

While national or clannish identification definitely leads to hero worship, the developing countries like China and India reward  another characteristic in selection of their heroes – which is the quality of being underdog, who wins accolades against all odds, fighting and valiantly overcoming the hurdles and barriers which came in his way. On the face of it Harvard educated Jeremy Lin is hardly an underdog – a privileged Asian kid form an Ivy league university. However these are the precise characteristics, which make him an underdog in the world of NBA – which rewards not Ivy league education but towering body height and impressive physique – something which one would not associate easily with Jermey Lin and which perhaps does enhance the value of his accomplishments as seen by his large fan base in China.

Ashok Sethi