Ping Pong Diplomacy
A Thaw in US-China Relations
'Ping-pong diplomacy' refers to the exchange of table tennis players between the People's Republic of China and the US in the early 1970s. One of the first signs of improved US-China relations was on 6 April 1971, when the American Ping-Pong team was invited by their Chinese colleagues for an all-expense paid visit to the People's Republic of China. Time magazine referred to this event as 'The ping heard around the world'. On 10 April, nine Ping-Pong players and four officials stepped across a bridge from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland. They were the first group of Americans who were allowed into China after the Communists took over in 1949, thereby starting an era of 'Ping-Pong diplomacy'. Upon return to the US, one of the American players expressed his opinion and said: "The people are just like us. They are real, they're genuine, and they've got feelings. I made friends, I made genuine friends, you see. The country is similar to America, but still very different. It's beautiful". One of the strongest examples of Cultural Diplomacy, this simple act of bringing together people separated by ideology, distance and culture through the sport of Ping-Pong is considered one of the major precursors to the Chinese-American détente. Improving opinions in both Washington and Beijing, the event signalled intentions of openness by both countries and softened tense relations, paving the way for Nixon's famous Beijing visit in 1972.