Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / World / China-US

Ping-Pong Diplomacy rekindled in Houston

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | | Updated: 2022-06-14 10:51
Share - WeChat
From left: USATT Hall of Fame receiver Scott Preiss; National Committee on United States-China Relations Vice-President Jan Berris; and USA Table Tennis CEO Virginia Sung pose for photos at the awards ceremony of the USA Table Tennis Ping Pong Diplomacy championship tour in Houston on Sunday. [MAY ZHOU/CHINA DAILY]

The story of the small ball moving the big ball continued in Houston over the weekend in the latest chapter of Ping-Pong Diplomacy.

American professional and amateur table tennis players opened the USATT (USA Table Tennis) Ping Pong Diplomacy championship tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary of former US president Richard Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972.

About 20 teams are competing in the tour, including USATT members Nikhil Kumar and Lily Zhang, who holds five US National Championship titles. She represented Team USA at three Olympics and became the first US World Championship medalist in 62 years when she won bronze with Chinese teammate Lin Gaoyuan at the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships in Houston last November.

The tour will visit other cities, including New York, San Francisco and Chicago, according to USATT CEO Virginia Sung.

The idea for the tour was inspired by USATT's collaboration with the Chinese team last November to continue the legacy of Ping-Pong Diplomacy.

Wang Xiaofeng, political counselor from the Chinese embassy in Washington, said that he hopes the event will inform more young people about the history of Ping-Pong Diplomacy — "The story of 'a small ball moving the big ball', that Ping-Pong Diplomacy promoted the normalization of the China-US relations and profoundly changed the international landscape."

"Today, the big ball of China-US relations still needs the small ping-pong ball to move it forward, from which we see the strategic vision, political courage and people's friendship reflected in Ping-Pong Diplomacy back then. This is why our commemoration is highly relevant today," Wang said.

People who were personally involved in the 1971 and 1972 Ping-Pong Diplomacy events, such as Connie Sweeris, her husband, Dell Sweeris, and Jan Berris, attended the championship awards ceremony Sunday night.

Connie Sweeris was a member of the US table-tennis team invited to visit China in 1971 and got to shake hands with premier Zhou Enlai during her visit. Dell Sweeris was involved in the reciprocal visit of the Chinese team to the US in 1972 and played with Chinese player Liang Geliang in front of 10,000 people in Michigan.

"It was a thrill to be part of the 1971 Ping-Pong Diplomacy because that was a real surprise to us and it made history. Knowing that the experience helped to thaw the relationship, the big thing is, 50 years later we would like to see that friendship legacy move forward," Connie Sweeris said.

Jan Berris, vice-president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, was involved in organizing the Chinese ping-pong team tour in the US in 1972. She recounted that experience to highlight how genuine friendship was formed during the tour of weeks.

By the end of the tour, the American players, tour staff and security guard all learned how to say "friendship first, competition second" in Chinese. When it was time to say good-bye, some Americans teared up.

"It struck me, during the trip and after, when I would think or talk about it, how surprisingly easy it was to move from a period when people in two countries who had been conditioned by their government and media, to think of the other as enemies, to overcoming that, and changing the negative stereotypes that our two countries had had of one another," Berris said.

USATT Hall of Fame recipient Scott Preiss brought the event to an end by inviting VIP guests and audience members to play ping-pong with him.

Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349