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Friendly Match Played in Hangzhou to Mark 40th Anniversary of Sino-US Ping Pong Diplomacy


On the morning of Dec. 10th, 2011, a table tennis friendly match was played in Hangzhou to mark the 40th anniversary of “Ping Pong Diplomacy” between China and the U.S. Playing in the match were veteran players of both sides, some of them members of the original team in the friendly game of forty years ago that contributed to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China.

Friendly match in Hangzhou in which Judy Hoarfrost and Connie Sweeries, veteran players on the original team in the 1971 visit to China, played. They beat their Chinese counterparts in the women's double game.

After the match, American athletes enjoyed a tour around West Lake, Hangzhou's calling card.

It all began with an encounter in sport. One afternoon during the 1971 World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan, American athlete Glenn Cowan missed his team bus to the venue after his practice. He boarded the Chinese team bus at their invitation, and was greeted by Zhuang Zedong, key player of the Chinese team. As a gesture of politeness, Zhuang presented Cowan with a silk-screen portrait of Huangshan Mountain, a famous product from Hangzhou.

Zhuang Zedong presented Glenn Cowan with a silk screen portrait (a famous product from Hangzhou) at the 1971 World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan. The friendly gesture quickly captured media attention.

Zhuang Zedong and his American counterpart in 2011.

This soon garnered massive media attention, as the sight of an athlete of Communist China chatting amiably with an athlete from the US was certainly a rare sight, given the then political climate of Cold War. “Of course,” said Cowan, when asked by a journalist whether he would like to visit China in particular.

Prior to that, the US table tennis delegation to the Championships filed a request via the Chinese delegation to Chinese Foreign Ministry to visit China after the Championships. As usual, the Ministry rebuffed the request initially. However, when the story about friendship between Chinese and American athletes in Japan reached Chairman Mao Zedong, he decided instantly to invite the U.S. team.

There began the ice-breaking move. The U.S. table tennis team arrived in Beijing less than one week later, and was warmly received by Premier Zhou Enlai.

The friendly match between the visiting American team and the Chinese players, Beijing, Apr. 1971.

American team visited Great Wall.

The Chinese National Table Tennis Team's return visit in 1972 was well received in America.

The Time recorded the Ping Pong Diplomacy.

Besides a friendly match with the Chinese team, the U.S. delegation visited such other places as the Great Wall, Summer Palace, and Tsinghua University.

The visit opened a fresh chapter in the friendship between the Chinese and the American people. Sino-U.S. relations became less strained. Exchanges between China and the U.S. improved at the people-to-people level. President Richard Nixon visited China in February 1972, and a Sino-U.S. Joint Communique was issued in Shanghai. Diplomatic relations between the two nations embarked on the road to normalization.

President Nixon visited West Lake in 1972, accompanied by Premier Zhou Enlai.

Dec. 2011. Venteran players of both countries pose for photo in the Octagonal Pavilion, West Lake State Guest House, Hangzhou, where negotiations were held in 1972 to draw up the Sino-US Joint Communique.


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