Yao Ming Posts Up for the Elephants

Published on Author Asher
September 2013: Yao Ming feeds a baby rhino orphaned by poachers in Kenya

You might not be aware that Yao Ming, the former Houston Rockets center and NBA legend, is a delegate in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Though China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), is technically unicameral, the CPPCC is often considered the Upper House of China’s Two Assemblies. According to Yao, “the CPPCC can provide a platform for the ruling party to hear the different voices of the people and to solve their problems.”

Elected last year to serve a five-year term in the Conference, Yao Ming has put environmental and public health issues front and center. Yao has decried the shortage of physical education teachers in China and the decline in the health of youth, recommending that Beijing expand its hiring quotas for P.E. teachers and pass legislation to insure students from accidental injuries during exercise. But now, Yao has put forth a motion calling for a ban of the ivory trade in China and promoting awareness of elephant and rhinoceros endangerment.

NPR’s Anthony Kuhn reports that a recent survey by WildAid indicates “strong popular support among urban Chines for a ban on ivory sales,” and that Xi Jinping’s “ongoing crackdown on government corruption” could put a dent in demand for illegal ivory. Yao Ming visited Africa in 2012 to begin filming “The End of Wild,” a documentary about the illegal trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn, and has partnered with WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation to promote the issue.

China is a major consumer of illegally traded goods, including iron ore from Mexico, timber and agricultural produce from Myanmar, and gold, ivory, and rhinoceros horn from Zimbabwe. The question remains, if Yao Ming is successful in banning the ivory trade, will the ban be effective? And how will increased ties between China and African nations—including Zimbabwe—(mentioned in previous posts by John Helvey and Austin Tamayo) affect the trade in illegal goods?

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4 Responses to Yao Ming Posts Up for the Elephants

  1. I don’t know about how it will affect illegal trade between China and African nations, but I would be curious to see how improved relations may affect resources trade between China and African nations. I am writing my term paper on the iron ore trade between Australia and China and African nations constitute some of the main competition to that relationship. Perhaps a better relationship between the two entities could foster a shift in trade towards some of those African nations.

  2. I’m not sure that policy on imports in one area (putting teeth into the ban on ivory) links to other foreign economic (developing mines in Africa). My hunch is that China is a signatory to bans on such endangered species trade. The challenge is enforcement – a single tusk doesn’t take up much space in a container, or a bulk carrier – in the latter it would be in relative terms like looking for a needle in a haystack.

  3. It seems like a win win for Yao to stay relevant and the CPPCC to get some publicity about the issues they are fighting for. A ban on ivory trade would be difficult but this may be a step in the right direction to getting some laws passed in their favor. But then the question of enforcement comes into play. Just look at the environmental issues already taking place in China. It just doesn’t seem like the environment is the priority for China and certainly not the ivory trade. So unfortunately it doesn’t look promising for Yao.

  4. While Yao Ming’s efforts seem noble and goodhearted, I agree with Professor Smitka. Enforcing the crackdown on black market trades takes not just a law but significant means to enforce it.