Who's going to blink first?
Does the NBA need China more than China needs the NBA?
That issue of leverage in a rapidly escalating standoff is likely to shape the next moves in this unlikely geopolitical clash between Beijing and its most popular American sports league. The crisis will come to a head with NBA commissioner Adam Silver's scheduled visit to Shanghai on Wednesday.
It isn't much of a question for most of the foreign companies that play by China's rules and find themselves balancing their commitment to democratic civil liberties against their pursuit of the market's billions of dollars. In almost every case of an international business enterprise stoking the authoritarian regime's ire, the company bowed to Chinese pressure, quickly apologizing in fear of losing access to a powerful economy of 1.4 billion people.