My friend Prof. Gary Rawnsley has a post about the retirement of Yao Ming, and the misuse of the term "soft power." While I don't disagree with Prof. Rawnsley about the overuse of the title, and doubt that Yao reflects Chinese softpower (nor do I disagree with Prof. John Brown's comment about the dilution of the term "public diplomacy", even if I do try to push the boundaries of the term), I still feel that Yao and all the hubub surrounding the phenomenon of a 7'7" Chinese basketball star has had some public and cultural diplomacy value. Yao has been an avatar for cultural exchange, and a bridge to facilitate such exchange. ESPN got the intrinsic cultural diplomacy value of Yao, as seen here in this hysterical commercial. And while I don't think that Yao playing basketball increased China's influence globally, he did help connect disparate parts of the world, something that we hope of all public diplomats.