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Is Ping Pong Diplomacy really important nowadays?

Recently, during this Houston WTTC 2021, the Ping Pong Diplomacy has organized its 50 anniversary. So what is ping pong diplomacy? Let’s learn these historical moments related to table tennis with coach EmRatThich.

Ping Pong Diplomacy in 2021?

Is the cold war finished? or not?

The Sino-US Mixed Doubles has entered the semifinals and has won at least one bronze medal and has been on the podium! But there is still hope for the mixed doubles combination to move forward. This is also the first time since 1959 that the American team has won the podium.

ITF announced that China’s Lin Gaoyuan will play alongside American Lily Zhang and Wang Manyu will team up with Indian Kanak Jha in the mixed doubles at this tournament this week.

both American and Chinese players entering the Mixed Doubles competition on the year marking the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy
both American and Chinese players entering the Mixed Doubles competition on the year marking the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy

Ping-pong diplomacy in the new era will be inaugurated by a pair of American-Chinese teams, according to Chinese Table Tennis Association president Liu Guoliang in a statement.

“History will be made in Houston,” the ITTF promised.

Formed diplomatic contacts between the United States and an isolated China through “Ping-pong diplomacy,” a series of friendly matches between Chinese and American teams in 1971.

Lin Gaoyuan and Lily Zhang compete during the mixed doubles semifinals at the 2021 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships
Lin Gaoyuan and Lily Zhang compete during the mixed doubles semifinals at the 2021 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships

As a result, Chinese officials and state-run media have expressed optimism about the anniversary and the “great legacy” of ping-pong diplomacy.
What is the purpose of Ping Pong Diplomacy nowadays?

The Ping Pong Diplomacy initiative aims to cultivate peaceful relations between individuals, groups, regions, and nations by encouraging them to play table tennis.

The ITTF will be promoted as a geopolitical player with the goal of using table tennis as a peacemaker and conflict resolution tool.

“PLAYING TABLE TENNIS WILL ENSURE PEACE!” is the main slogan that ITTF aims to.

History of Ping Pong Diplomacy

Table tennis was instrumental in repairing relations between China and the United States in 1971. China sent a strong message by using the phrase “Friendship first, competition second” to promote the 31st World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan following the Cultural Revolution and the subsequent six-year hiatus of China from the global table tennis community.

China's Wang Manyu will play with American Kanak Jha
China’s Wang Manyu will play with American Kanak Jha

Continuing the story required just that a Chinese team bus pick up a US athlete who had missed his and that journalist capture the perfect photo of the two athletes walking side by side. As a result, China invited the US team to a training camp and Nixon visited Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong in 1972, which was a stepping stone to normalizing diplomatic relations in 1979.



Here are the most important moments of ping pong diplomacy, resumed by coach EmRatThich.

in 1972

World Table Tennis Championships 31, which took place in Nagoya from March 28 to April 7 of 1971, were one of the events. On March 11, the State Council held a special meeting to discuss China’s participation in this competition. Premier Zhou Enlai presided over the event, which was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports.

members of the U.S. table tennis team pose with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai in 1971
members of the U.S. table tennis team pose with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai in 1971

As a result, the entire press was abuzz with the news that Chinese and American table tennis players had come into contact and exchanged souvenirs. American athletes had indicated a desire to visit China before their trip was even planned.

Richard Nixon meets Mao Zedong in 1972
Richard Nixon meets Mao Zedong in 1972

Of all, even without the “ping pong diplomacy,” Sino-American relations could have been repaired sooner or later. This diplomacy, on the other hand, clearly accelerated the process. Zhou Enlai remarked that a ball bounced over the net and the entire globe was stunned. In physical terms, it’s hard to explain how a tiny globe might set the entire world into motion, but it’s not impossible in political terms.

in 1991

It was at the Chiba World Table Tennis Championships when the first united team was formed.
In order to make this unified team a reality, the late Mr. Ogimura (the ITTF president at the time) was a driving force. He traveled to both countries 35 times in total and encouraged both teams to train together in Japan one month prior to the WTTC in order to better prepare for the competition. It was an exciting moment in the history of table tennis when the Unified Women’s Team defeated China in the finals to become the world champions.

Ping pong diplomacy China - USA in the first version
Ping pong diplomacy China – the USA in the first version

Table tennis has also played an important role in improving tensions between the north and the south of Korea. The 41st World Table Tennis Championships were contested in Chiba, Japan, from April 24 to May 6, 1991, and included a joint team from both sides of the 38th parallel. Celebrations broke out across Korea when their team of female athletes took home the Corbillon Cup for the first time in their history. The win could pave the way for the reconciliation and reunification of Korea, which has been divided since the Korean War ended.

in 2011

USA, Russia, North and South Korea, India, and Pakistan participated in Ping Pong Diplomacy 2.0 in Qatar in 2011.

Ping pong diplomacy Nixon and China
Ping pong diplomacy Nixon and China

in 2018

North and South Korea boycotted the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden, in 2018 Ping Pong Diplomacy 3.0. It was a joint effort of the ITTF and ITTF Foundation to advocate the idea of a Unified Team. The Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour allowed both teams to compete together in numerous tournaments, leading to an unbelievable silver medal at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.

North and South Korea diplomacy
North and South Korean diplomacy

in 2019

International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) urged ITTF Foundation to join the effort to make the world a more peaceful and better home for refugees via sport at the 2019 UN Global Refugee Forum. Together with more than 80 major sporting organizations.

What are the benefits of ping pong diplomacy?

Because of the rise of Ping Pong Diplomacy, it is now possible to build bridges of understanding across nations through fostering camaraderie among their citizens. There has been an ever-increasing interchange of goods and services, as well as cultural and educational exchanges, between Pacific countries over the years.

The main benefit is the friendships between countries!

friendships is the wonderful moment China-USA mixed double
friendships are the wonderful moment China-USA mixed double

North and South Korea declined to play against each other at the Liebherr 2018 ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden. To win silver in this year’s ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, both teams were able to play together as one, thanks to the ITTF and ITTF Foundation’s support for the united team concept.

Ping Pong Diplomacy has a greater significance in today’s difficult global situation. With the exception of a few sportsmen, table tennis has changed the globe in more ways than one beyond the arena.

Liu Guoliang was elected as ITTF Executive Vice President

In the early morning of November 25, 2021, Beijing time, the 2021 ITTF Congress was held in Houston, USA.

Liu Guoliang is elected as ITTF Vice President
Liu Guoliang is elected as ITTF Vice President

Liu Guoliang, Chairman of the WTT World Table Tennis Professional League Council and Chairman of the China Table Tennis Association, was successfully elected as the Executive Vice Chairman of the International Table Tennis Federation.

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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

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