If You Need to Know “What is Ping-pong Diplomacy?”, Click Here!

If You Need to Know “What is Ping-pong Diplomacy?”, Click Here!

The Ping-pong heard around the world! That was the surprising invitation to American ping-pong players from China.

Forty years ago, the Cold War between two great powers which were American and Chine was eased by a strange diplomatic tool: ping pong.

Before 2011, ping pong was considered table tennis. However, nowadays ping pong and table tennis are not the same.

But Ping pong Diplomacy refers to an event that happened in the past, so I would like to use these words as an alternative to each other in this article.

And here, all the historical secrets behind this sport that changes the world!

What is Ping pong Diplomacy?

Ping pong Diplomacy mentions to the agreeable table tennis matches between the United States and the People’s Republic of China in early 1971.

The event marked a thaw in Sino – American relations that paved a visit to Beijing by President Richard Nixon and this reconciled the tense disagreement of these two nations.


It all began when, in April 1971, the Chinese table tennis players had gone to Nagoya, Japan, to participate in the 31st World table tennis championship.

Before leaving, although Premier Zhou Enlai instructed “Friendship first, competition later”, the whole team was not allowed to shake hands or actively talk to the Americans due to the hostile viewpoint.

One of the players from America, Glenn Cowan, missed the bus to come back to the hotel, and he asked by a Chinese player to board their bus instead.

On this occasion, Cowan offered to go to China to complete. The encounter with Cowan was immediately reported to Beijing by Zhao Cheng Hong, the leader of the team.

a silk brocade showing the Fuchun Mountains Zhuang Zedong gifted Cowan

Supposing that this was an opportunity to reopen the relationship between the two countries, on April 7th, 1971, Mao Zedong instructed Zhao Zheng Hong to issue an invitation to American table tennis team to visit the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with all expense covered.

On April 10th, 1971, nine American table tennis players, four officials, and ten journalists were escorted from Hong Kong to mainland China, opening the era of “Ping pong Diplomacy”.

Ping-pong Diplomacy match

The 8-day trip expressed the mutual desire to reduce previous tension between Washington and Beijing.

From April 11th to 17th, the US team was playing many pleasant matches, visiting the Great Wall and Summer Place (Yiheyuan) in Beijing, meeting with Chinese students and workers, and attending social events in major cities of China.

On April 14th, in the banquet to welcome the American delegation visiting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Prime Minister Zhou Enlai said:

“You have started a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and China. I believe that the beginning of this amity and goodwill will certainly receive the support of the citizens of our nations.”

In response to that signal, on the same day, the US Government also lifted the trade embargo against China lasted 20 years before.

A year later, Chinese players also visited the US to take part in a series of friendly matches that showed the spirit of friendship.

In fact, the United States and China quietly conducted secret negotiations to improve relations between the two countries as the desire of both sides in the context of the aggressive attitude of the Soviet Union.

In 1971, the US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger secretly visited China twice to re-establish amicable relations.

In the summer of that year, after the goodwill was re-build by Ping pong Diplomacy, Richard M. Nixon also stated that he would visit China next year to conduct formal negotiations to normalize relations between two nations.


This exceptional utilization of sport has been made to align Diplomatic relations on the world stage for more than forty years. It is said that this sport used so successfully as a tool of international diplomacy.

American players were the first to land on China after more than two decades, and without Ping pong Diplomacy, perhaps the previous contradictions had no more friendly way to resolve.

The effort of reconciliation contributed to preventing the Soviet Union with the desire of emerging as a superpower.

PRC wished to terminate its international isolation. Therefore, Ping pong Diplomacy led to a mutual agreement to resurrect bilateral ties.


On April 14th, 1971, the United States announced to lift a trade embargo against China, which had been there for twenty years.

In February 1972, ‘Shanghai Communique’ which was a document laying down prospects for Sino-American relations in the future was issued.

In May 1973, ‘liaison offices’ were set up in the capitals of both nations to organize political negotiations.

On January 1979, the US and China officially established diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level.

This is Ping pong Diplomacy and its effectively impact on the diplomatic tension. Nowadays, Ping-pong still exists as a sport that many players love and pursue.

Source: Sport Life Z

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