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Remarks by Consul General Zhang Ping at the Commemorative Event on Ping-Pong Diplomacy
(August 22, 2019, Nixon Presidential Library and Museum)
2019/08/23

It gives me great pleasure to attend tonight’s event hosted by the Nixon Foundation, Chinese Consulate General, USATT and CTTA in commemoration of Ping Pong Diplomacy. I wish to extend warm welcome to the athletes and coaches from both Chinese and US national teams, who right now are doing a joint training in UCLA to prepare for next year’s Olympic Games. I am also pleased to note that among the guests present here tonight, there are former US national team players who experienced Ping Pong Diplomacy. Your presence has made this event very special.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the US. As we look back at the normalization process of China-US relations, Ping Pong Diplomacy, together with Dr. Kissinger’s secret visit to China and President Nixon’s historic visit to China, takes a very unique and special place in that part of the history.

In the early 1970s’, after two decades of estrangement and hostility between China and the US, and confronted by the changing international strategic environment, both Chinese and American leaders were pondering where to find the breakthroughs to improve China-US relations. It was just at the moment when China-US relations were in a very delicate situation that an accidental encounter, occurred between the Chinese and American players during the 31th World Table Tennis Championship in 1971, caught the attention of Chinese leaders. Soon after, an invitation was extended by the Chinese side to the U.S. ping pong team which led to a visit to China by US team in that year, and one year later the Chinese team made a returned visit. What is worth mentioning is that during that returned visit, the Chinese ping pong delegation made a tour of Disneyland, which is only 10 miles away from Yorba Linda. The exchange of visits brought up nice sentiments of Chinese and American people towards each other, creating a big impact on the public opinion in support of normalization of China-US relations.

President Nixon once said that he never thought that the US initiative on China would be realized in the form of US ping pong team’s visit to Beijing. It is true that Ping Pong diplomacy occurred in a bit of unexpected way. Nobody would expect that a small ping pong ball could have such a magic power to open the door that had long been shut between our two countries. Yet, it came as a natural outcome of the aspiration of our two peoples for friendship and good relationship.

The impact of Ping Pong Diplomacy, which is described as “a tiny ball moving the big globe ahead” is indeed enormous and far reaching. It opened the door of communication and exchange between Chinese and American peoples. It pushed forward the normalization process of China-U.S. relations, and paved the way for President Nixon’s ice-breaking visit to China in 1972. It, in Premier Zhou Enlai ‘s words, opened a new chapter of relationship between China and American people.

Today, in this new chapter, more fruitful results of people to people exchange are being achieved and more touching stories of friendship are being told. Despite many twists and turns, ups and downs, China-US friendship remains strong and our people to people exchange remains robust. China-US people to people bonds have become an important pillar that supports the development of bilateral relationship.

Though Ping Pong Diplomacy took place 48 years ago, its legacy still remains significant for the present day China-US relations. Only two months ago, in Osaka, some 80 miles away from Nagoya where the 1971 World Table Tennis Championship were held, President Xi Jinping and President Trump held a bilateral meeting on the sideline of G20 Summit. At the beginning of the meeting, President Xi shared the Ping Pong diplomacy story with President Trump, emphasizing the important role of people to people exchange in the bilateral relations. It was also in this meeting that both leaders reached important consensus, which they agreed to continue to advance a China-U.S. relationship featuring coordination, cooperation and stability.

I am pleased to note that over the years the legacy of Ping Pong diplomacy has been well carried forward by generations of ping pong athletes of the two countries. By playing the match and having joint training, they have not only improved their skills, but also fostered a deep friendship. They have contributed in many ways to the mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples.

At present, China-US relations are standing at a critical juncture. Under the current situation, it is more important that we carry forward the legacy of Ping Pong diplomacy, bringing into full play its role of “a tiny ball moving the big globe ahead ”. We need to strengthen the people to people connection, further deepen the friendship and make concerted efforts to maintain a stable and sound development of China-US relations.

On this note, I wish to thank our friends for your long term support to China-U.S. relations and for your great efforts in promoting better understanding and friendship between our two peoples. I also wish to thank the organizers, sponsors and co-sponsors for your hard work in putting together this wonderful event. I wish both Chinese and American ping pong players greater progress as you are heading towards next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.

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