ping pong diplomacy
Master of Public Diplomacy candidate and student diplomat Wa'el Nimat discusses how Ping-Pong Diplomacy between the U.S. and China represents a non-traditional tool of diplomacy.
After 45 years, ping-pong athletes who took part in a series of historic exchanges between China and the U.S. in 1971 and 1972 reunited at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the first stop on the Chinese table tennis team's visit to the U.S. in 1972. [...] "I'm very excited and joyful to be here and meet my old friends today," said Liang. "If it wasn't for Ping-Pong Diplomacy helping to break the ice between the two nations, there wouldn't be as much exchange and communication between China and the U.S. today."
A friendship match is held at the headquarters of the United Nations in commemoration of the China-U.S. Ping-Pong diplomacy, 45 years after the Chinese Ping-Pong delegation came to the UN for the first time, in New York September 15, 2017. In 1971 and 1972, U.S. and Chinese table tennis teams exchanged visit after many years of estrangement and antagonism between the two countries, opening the door for the China-U.S. people-to-people contact.
Hours following Trump’s restrictive immigration policy was announced, various sports entities, including the NBA, MLS, and the UFC, had contacted State Department to determine how this would impact their respective businesses. The EO also threatened U.S. bids for the Olympic Games and World Cup. However, it was the policy’s impact on amateur wrestling that resulted in retaliatory action from Iran.
Presidents can influence sports. Dwight Eisenhower attempted to improve relations with the Soviet Union in the late 1950s with a sports and cultural exchange program. Richard Nixon opened trade with China after a ping pong tournament between the US and China and Nixon’s effort was named “ping pong diplomacy” in the early 1970s.
A month earlier, the blossoming mood of rapprochement was given a sprinkling of goodwill when a New York Cosmos team including Brazilian legend Pele in their delegation traveled to Havana to face Cuba in a friendly. It highlighted the role sport has played to thaw hitherto chilly relations between the two nations, a strategic tool the United States has made use of repeatedly for decades.
Forty-five years ago, Cold War tensions between the United States and communist China were lessened thanks to an unlikely diplomatic tool: ping-pong. On April 10, 1971, the U.S. table tennis team arrived in China for a 10-day visit, becoming the first group of Americans in over 20 years to get a peek behind the “Bamboo Curtain.”