As one of the most powerful nations in the world, China holds immense sway across numerous different spectrums of daily life. They have a strong habit of being involved in scenarios with their most famous exports, including sports professionals. However, China also has a habit of getting involved in disputes with any kind of platform that critiques the Chinese way of life. From spats with the NBA to the current situation involving Peng Shuai, one of the best female tennis players in the world, there are many examples.
Often, organisations will look to protect their income and will stand down on any criticisms being made. However, the WTA has decided to take a different route. The concern that exists for Peng, 35, has become a major talking point in professional tennis. Since the tennis star accused a major Chinese official of sexual assault, she has entirely vanished from public view.
This has led to many calls for Peng to make a public appearance, which so far has not happened. This has led to many criticisms of the Chinese government, and now the WTA – the organising body for top-level women’s tennis – have taken the unprecedented step of suspending all tournaments set to be held on Chinese soil.
The hope is that this strong protest will lead to a reappearance of Peng. The WTA chief, Steve Simon, said that he could not “in good conscience” ask the players on the rankings list to take part in a Chinese tournament with the current situation.
This talking point has continued for some time, and it looks unlikely to be met with any kind of meaningful response. In a short statement, China simply noted that it “opposes the politicisation of sports” and left it at that.
Have the ATP also suspended Chinese tournaments?
It was hoped that the ATP – the governing body for top-level men’s tennis – would also take part in suspending any tournaments set to be held in China. So far, though, this has yet to happen, and it has led to some pretty wide-reaching criticism of the ATP.
The ATP noted that they believed that having a globalised presence was a better solution for making an impact. However, tennis legends such as Martina Navratilova have been heavy in their criticism of the ATP, seeing a lack of solidarity.
Given the lucrative nature of China in the tennis world, though, it is expected that a solution will be found eventually. The situation involved Peng shoes no signs of changing anytime soon, with the government in China remaining entirely non-committal to any information regarding her whereabouts or her condition.
As it stands, then, the WTA has chosen to take the almost unprecedented step of suspending ranking tournaments until a solution can be sought. For many, it comes as a major statement to try and make clear that the treatment of an individual who has spoken out about sexual assault is simply not acceptable. While it might do nothing to change the situation, it at least provides some form of protest against the treatment of Peng.
Will the ATP join forces and show solidarity? So far, it appears not.