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Foreignness and Transnational Sport Organizations in China Open Access


Other title
Arena Development
Media Framing
National Basketball Association
Stakeholder Influence Strategies
Guanxi Management
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Xue, Hanhan
Supervisor and department
Mason, Daniel S. (Physical Education and Recreation)
Examining committee member and department
Washington, Marvin (Business)
Mason, Daniel S. (Physical Education and Recreation)
Walker, Gordon J. (Physical Education and Recreation)
Hinch, Tom (Physical Education and Recreation)
Nagel, Mark S. (University of South Carolina, Sport and Entertainment Management)
Physical Education and Recreation

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
When entering the Chinese market, Western sport organizations are usually confused about the interests, expectations, demands, and behaviors of Chinese stakeholders. It is important for these foreign organizations to understand the way in which Chinese people look at foreigners, foreign products, and the impact of foreign firms’ business activities on local society, because Western sport organizations must function within a web of relations interconnected to Chinese interest groups and organizations in the Chinese market. The purpose of this dissertation was thus to examine the implications of foreignness for sport organizations’ operations in the Chinese context, through employing a case study of the National Basketball Association’s penetration into the Chinese market. Three main issues were in particular addressed in this dissertation, including the Chinese media articulation of the foreign identity and practices of the NBA, the way in which cultural difference influences Chinese stakeholders’ strategy towards the NBA’s arena development plan in China, and the management of guanxi (personal relationship) by the NBA and its partner Anschutz Entertainment Group in China. To facilitate the studies, qualitative data from different sources – including print newspaper articles and social media posts and seventeen in-depth interviews conducted with Chinese government officials, Chinese and American managers, and Chinese journalists – were collected. Varying conclusions regarding the three main issues surrounding the implications of foreignness for American sport organizations were presented in this dissertation. First, in developing frames, Chinese mainstream and social media highlighted specific disadvantages, advantages or paradoxes of foreignness. The different sources of media coverage revealed different framing prevalence surrounding the issue of foreignness, ranging from an emerging American consuming culture notion to traditional Chinese political cultural ideology represented in sport, and from the articulation of state ideology and control to a developing rhetoric of market forces. Second, the Chinese stakeholders perceived that cultural difference matters in terms of conflicting business ethics and the inappropriate means of dealing with personal relationships undertaken by the joint venture of NBA and AEG, and employed different influence strategies to press the NBA and AEG to further reduce the foreign organizations’ involvement in the arena operation in China. Finally, building guanxi with Chinese media and different levels of government officials is important. In particular, foreign sport organizations need to pay special attention to personal relationships with lower-levels of bureaucracy. In terms of identifying guanxi bases, three general types of guanxi bases included preexisting guanxi ties associated with internal managers or employees, third parties, and shared experience in major events. Setting up a political consulting department, engaging in government relations activities by hiring Chinese managers, and cooperating with local sport institutions and universities might be useful approaches to identify guanxi networks and guanxi bases. Moreover, guanxi could be close or distant based on the degree to which foreign sport organizations follow the social and cultural norms involving empathy, reciprocity, and mian zi (face).
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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