Crossing the [Nine Dash] Line: Treading the Waters of Geopolitical Issues

Report by Bobb Drake.

What’s more important than timing? Timing! Actually, the two are equally important.

A few weeks ago, ESPN’s use of a map of China featuring the Nine Dash Line may have gone unnoticed or passed off as a careless gaffe. The map, rarely seen outside of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), was featured on an October 9 broadcast about the fallout between the NBA and China over a (subsequently deleted) tweet by Houston Rocket’s general manager in support of the Hong Kong citizens who are resisting Beijing’s increased influence in the governance of Hong Kong en masse.

But times are changing. The general American public is, for the first time, becoming aware of the extent of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) interference in, and censorship pressures on, Western entities who want to do business in the PRC. In this climate, did Disney-owned ESPN cross a line in using this internationally contentious map to discuss the recent Chinese issue with the NBA? Will this be seen as pandering to the CCP and meet with a backlash by the American public?

Crossing the [Nine Dash] Line-ESPN Chinese Map - Blurred-ESPN Chinese Map

Chinese map featuring the Nine Dash Line aired on an ESPN broadcast discussing NBA’s geopolitical run-in with China

What is the significance of this map?

The map has been used by China since 1947 and represents the country’s internationally unrecognized claim of sovereignty over a large area of the South China Sea outlined by nine dashes, or sometimes ten as seen in the version shown on ESPN. The area comprises a large number of territorial disputes between the PRC, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.

This has been a preview. The full report can be accessed online by Nimdzi Partners.

The full publication contains information on why the Nine Dash Line is such a contentious topic in the world today as well as high-profile examples of missteps by businesses not being cautious when treading the geopolitical waters. If you are not a Nimdzi Partner, contact us.


This report was researched and written by Nimdzi's Director of Geocultural Research, Bobb Drake. If you wish to learn more about the topic, feel free to reach out to Bobb at [email protected].

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