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US school celebrates Ping-Pong Diplomacy

By LINDA DENG in Tacoma, Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-02 07:34
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Table tennis fans, students and dignitaries gathered at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington, on Tuesday for an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy between China and the United States.

The event at the school auditorium brought full circle the past six years of visits and exchanges with China, prompted by the visit to the school by President Xi Jinping in 2015.

On Xi's visit to the same auditorium, he told stories of Ping-Pong Diplomacy to the students. He also gifted two ping-pong tables and a set of paddles and balls to the school.

"When President Xi extended a surprise invitation during that visit for 100 Lincoln High School students to visit China the following year, that was so special and touched so many lives," Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards said at the event.

"With that kind and generous gesture, he helped foster a stronger cultural understanding and connection between our people," she said.

Woodards added, "I look forward to the day when we can overcome the current public health and economic crisis, and I send my best to Beijing for a successful 2022 Winter Olympics".

The high school's principal, Patrick Erwin, said President Xi had made a "great visit". "After our trip to China he sent a letter, 'Young people are the future and hope of a country, and friendship between the people of our two countries needs to be carried forward by the younger generation.'"

Fifty years ago, the US table tennis team was invited by its Chinese counterpart to visit China at the conclusion of the 31st World Championships in Nagoya, Japan. The US players landed in Beijing on April 10, 1971, becoming the first US delegation to visit China since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Almost a year later, the Chinese team visited the US to play a number of exhibition games.

Chinese Ambassador to the US Qin Gang delivered the opening remark at Tuesday's event. He said the recent World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Houston, Texas, especially the two mixed doubles' teams, which each had one Chinese player and one US player, brought back memories of Ping-Pong Diplomacy 50 years ago.

"I hope that you can keep up practicing and maybe play in future championships. More importantly, I hope that you will do your part and join forces in spinning the 'small ball' to move forward the 'big ball' of US-China relationships," the ambassador said to participants via video.

Chinese players who participated in the world championships also sent video greetings to Tacoma.

"I hope that table tennis will become a popular sport, not only in China, but also in the rest of the world," said Liu Guoliang, executive vice-president of the International Table Tennis Federation and president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association. "Young people from all over the world will have the opportunities to play table tennis, and young table tennis lovers will come to train and play in China, and carry on this friendship built upon table tennis."

Ma Long, a Chinese ping-pong player who won his second Olympic gold medal in men's table tennis in Tokyo this year, said, "I want to take the opportunity to further pass on the spirit of Ping-Pong Diplomacy to write new stories in the new era."

After a demonstration game played on a table donated by Double Happiness Sports and the Washington Panda Foundation, students rushed to take part in a practice session.

Seniors Lincoln Nguyen, Isha Hussein and Jeremiah Lenard told China Daily they all love the sport and trying out the top-quality table from Shanghai was one of the reasons they attended.

The Chinese Consul General in San Francisco, Wang Donghua, also participated in the event via Zoom, along with Dick Muri, mayor of Steilacoom, Washington, who spoke at the event. Their involvement highlighted the importance of people-to-people exchanges and friendship built through US and Chinese participating in sports events.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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