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Smiling through sports diplomacy

By Matt Hodges | China Daily | Updated: 2011-07-17 08:44

If you knew Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon plays table tennis for a club in New York and professes to love the game, would it change your view of China? Probably not, but it seems like a good beginning.

China has been using sports diplomacy to make better friends with the West for the last 40 years, starting with the arrival of nine American players on the mainland in April 1971 who played a series of friendly matches here.

The invitation was extended after one friendly gesture by a Chinese player at the World Table Tennis Championships earlier that year in Nagoya, Japan, which apparently made Chairman Mao stop and re-evaluate his foreign policy. The man in question, Zhuang Zedong, saw Glenn Cowan panicking after the US player missed his team bus, and quickly offered the man he had been schooled to view as an 'enemy' a lift with the Chinese team.

Smiling through sports diplomacy

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