Commemorative activity marking 50th anniversary of China-U.S. Ping Pong Diplomacy held in Houston

By Zhang Mengxu, People’s Daily


The 50th anniversary of China-U.S. Ping-Pong Diplomacy was commemorated in Houston, the U.S., on the evening of Nov. 23, 2021, bringing together more than 150 people from all walks of life from both countries, including members of Chinese and U.S. national table tennis teams.


Qin Gang, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State, Gou Zhongwen, head of the General Administration of Sport of China and chairman of the Chinese Olympic Committee, and Susanne Lyons, president of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, delivered video speeches to the commemorative activity.


Titled “Celebrating the past for a better future”, the event was jointly hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in the U.S., the USA Table Tennis and the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA).


As Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out in his virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden a few days ago, the most important event in international relations over the past 50 years was the reopening and development of China-U.S. relations, which has benefited the two countries and the whole world, Qin said in a pre-recorded video speech delivered to the event, noting that this most important event started from a small ping-pong ball.


“We believe that win-win cooperation is always the mainstream of China-U.S. relations. We do sometimes compete, but we should follow the recognized rules like table tennis players, have fair and healthy competition, respect each other, appreciate each other, learn from each other, and make progress together,” he said.


Fifty years from the Ping-Pong Diplomacy, the China-U.S. relationship is at a new crossroad, Qin pointed out. “Today, the big ball of China-U.S. relations still needs the small ping-pong ball to move it forward, from which we see the strategic vision, political courage and people’s friendship reflected in Ping-Pong Diplomacy back then, and this is why our commemoration is highly relevant and significant for today,” said the ambassador.


Fifty years ago, a member of the U.S. table tennis team sent a message to Zhou Enlai, then premier of China, asking for the American group to be invited to China, Kissinger recalled in his video speech, noting that it was a private initiative without governmental mission.


Chinese leaders soon invited the group for a historic visit to China, according to Kissinger, who said that the ping-pong team which went to China on a self-appointed diplomatic mission made a great contribution.


“I want to let everybody of the table tennis community to know how much the even seemingly peripheral events can contribute to international understanding and to peace among two great nations,” he said.


“The 2021 World Table Tennis Championships celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy. In 1971, the American team accepted an invitation to visit the People’s Republic of China. International headlines dubbed table tennis the sport that changed the world. The new era in the relations between our two countries sent a message of peace that resonated around the globe,” Lyons said in her video speech.


Representatives of Chinese national table tennis team Wang Hao and Fan Zhendong joined American athletes Connie Sweeris and Judy Hoarfrost, who were among the U.S. table tennis team that took the historic trip to China in 1971, in a wonderful exhibition match during the commemorative activity.


Before the exhibition match, Richard Char, chair of the USA Table Tennis, and Liu Guoliang, president of the CTTA, presented awards to the older generation of Chinese and U.S. table tennis players, recognizing their contributions to the China-U.S. Ping-Pong Diplomacy.


Participants in the commemoration also watched documentaries on the U.S. table tennis team’s visit to China in 1971 and Chinese table tennis team’s visit to the U.S. in 1972 during the activity.


In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, Chinese and American table tennis delegations announced on Nov. 21 that they would team up in the mixed doubles competition at the 2021 Houston World Table Tennis Championships. Relevant players from the two countries took part in joint training for the competition on Nov. 22.