While Taiwan and the mainland compete for space in the diplomatic arena, their sports stars are also fighting it out for fame and fortune in US arenas. It is mainland basketball against Taiwanese baseball. The best-known Taiwanese is Wang Chien-ming, 27, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, the most famous baseball team in the US. He is the most famous of the three islanders in major league baseball. Two others play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Born in Tainan in 1980, Wang was a star pitcher in Taiwan and played for the island's team in the 2002 Asian Games and at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Since he entered the world's top league, Wang has become an idol at home, where all his games are televised nationwide, many to large audiences on big screens. He was named one of the Time 100 influential people for 2007. But his salary this year, of US$490,000, is a fraction of the US$12 million earned by Shanghai-born Yao Ming, who is in his third year with the Houston Rockets, where he averages 18 points and eight rebounds a game and earns at least as much from commercial endorsements. Ethnic Chinese in America hope that they have unearthed a second Yao Ming in the giant form of Yi Jianlian, 19, who was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks at the end of June. Yi, who stands 2.13 metres tall, a little shorter than Yao's 2.28 metres, will be the fourth Chinese player in the National Basketball Association. Weighing 110kg and a native of Heshan , Guangdong, Yi played on China's 2004 Olympic team and the 2006 World Championship team. In the most recent season, he averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds with the Guangdong Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association. The US sports press has given Yi a warm welcome, enthusing about the commercial possibilities he offers to American companies in the Chinese market, but fans have been wondering if he has the muscle, guile and poise to survive the world's toughest basketball league. He has been in the US for several weeks' adjusting and, unlike the three Chinese before him, was on hand to witness his selection. 'I think I am ready,' he said.