Published On: Mon, May 21st, 2018

Ping Pong Diplomacy: What Is It, and How Did it Help US and China Relations?

Sports- A Political tool

Sports have united many and played an important role in maintaining international relations between nations. Many countries have taken the advantage of improving relations through sports such as to eradicate the cold war between the Soviet and states which were the two main pillars of this global system before Soviet’s fall. Olympic games have brought people of many countries closer with the passage of time. Ping Pong diplomacy was too used as a political tool by Richard Nixon to improve the relationship with China.

Sports have also been used as a tool to ruin relations with other states. Sports have also been a reason behind the football war. Yes, we’re talking about the World-Cup tournament of 1969, when a literal football war broke out between El Salvador and Honduras. There were conflicts between the two already and that dislike for each other triggered what was beforehand invisible.

Mainly sports is seen as a tool of diplomacy like Ping Pong Diplomacy act as mentioned earlier, sometimes countries used to lash at each other. Lets us discuss ping pong diplomacy in detail.

What is Ping Pong Diplomacy?

Ping Pong diplomacy pertains to the reciprocity of ping-pong players between the United States of America and the People’s Republics of China back in the early 70’s. The event paved the unhinged ways resulting in the arrival of President Richard Nixon to Beijing, China.

One fine day, American ping pong players were in Nagoya, Japan for the 31st world ping pong championship when they received an invitation to China. As the things got better between the two the slogan “Friendship first, competition second” went viral.

These American players were the first ever Americans to set foot in China and that was the beginning of an American-Chinese relationship. Their stay was albeit a sojourn yet it did wonders on a political level. The stay was only for a week in which they toured China and played exhibitions.

Nixon, soon after the tour, not wanting it to be an incomplete start of something beautiful sent Henry Kissinger to Peking to arrange for the president to visit China which actually became a historic moment. To which the below-typed words were spoken.

“Never before in history has a sport been used so effectively as a tool of international diplomacy.” -Chinese Premier Chou En-lai

How did it help mend US/China Relationship?

If anything, it did help improve the relations between the two, one might as well, take an example of “Forrest Gump” 1994’s flick which was based on ping pong diplomacy. Forrest gets a sudden likeness and interest for this game and ends up joining the US Army. He has to then play against the Chinese ping pong players as well, however, on a goodwill tour.

Another fine example of an improvement of the relation between two could be of Ping Pong being declared an Olympic game in 1988. It rather sounds odd how two were at cold terms before owing to wars. This benefited both in some ways. The embargo against China was lifted in June of 1970 which was rather quick as Nixon visited China in 1972 once again. This very year, in Shanghai Communique it was decided that both would work towards a rather warm relationship instead of a cold one. If it wasn’t for Ping Pong diplomacy Taiwan wouldn’t still be China’s. It was decided that year that there would be no interference and Taiwan was finally handed over to China on a Golden Platter.

It was none other than Ping pong diplomacy which introduced China to the rest of the world. Sure, it was there on the face of the planet and on the map but who cared, save for some small countries mostly its neighbor countries like Pakistan. In 2002, even George Bush offered praise to President of China Jiang Zemin, in respect to the Ping Pong Diplomacy.

Then he invited Chinese players to play ping pong to further improve the relationship to which it was feared he would lose the election. Apparently, he didn’t. By 2010, people of China and US were reciprocating cultures, education, sports, science, and technology to women’s issues.  This was and still is a remarkable moment in history as never had sports amended the relationship of two countries.

Author: Brandon King


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Displaying 8 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. John says:

    I saw a few champions from China, looks like magic. The best ping pong movement I’ve ever seen

  2. lisa says:

    i love ping pong and this article. thank you very much

  3. Roland Campbell says:

    China never gets out to the Western World without Ping Pong Diplomacy. I still remember it was a shocking news that China has opened his door.

  4. Beth Hein says:

    The Ping Pong certainly is one of the good ways to improve relations between US and China. I personally loved this post as I myself a sports lover.

  5. EmRatThich says:

    China never gets out to the Western World without Ping Pong Diplomacy. I still remember it was a shocking news that China has opened his door.

    Nowadays, table tennis is much more worldwide sport, not only the political games.

  6. Peter says:

    Ping Pong Diplomacy is a very famous event. It helps warm-up mutual relation between China and US. We have seen sports help politics many times, this event is different. It happened when the world was tense

  7. Lisa Ritchie says:

    i love ping pong. i like your article. i think: As society grows, sports will help countries come together

  8. Javier E. Culp says:

    I think ping pong is one of the best ways for US and China’s Relations. Not only them but also other countries. As a ping pong player i like your post and thanks for your effective information.

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