Ping-pong diplomats: Pushing ping-pong diplomacy into the next generation
Chinese and U.S. players competing together is expected to inspire greater cooperation between the two countries
By Li Nan  ·  2021-11-25  ·   Source: Web Exclusive

Connie Sweeris (right), a "ping-pong diplomat" from the United States and a member of the U.S. team that made the historic trip to China in 1971 (COURTESY PHOTO)

The new China-U.S. pairs at 2021 World Table Tennis Championships will help keep the friendship alive and push ping-pong diplomacy into the next generation, Connie Sweeris, a "ping-pong diplomat" from the United States, told Beijing Review. 

Sweeris was one of the members of the U.S. team that made the ice-breaking trip to China in 1971. Ping-pong diplomacy started a process that eventually re-coupled the two countries after 22 years of mutual hostility and isolation.

To mark its 50th anniversary, Chinese player Lin Gaoyuan has paired with American player Lily Zhang, and U.S. player Kanak Jha has paired with Chinese player Wang Manyu to compete at the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships, which began on December 23 and concludes on December 29 in Houston, the U.S. The two pairs are entering the mixed doubles competition.

The Chinese Table Tennis Association and the U.S. Table Tennis Association jointly submitted the request to the International Table Tennis Federation to allow China-U.S. pairs to compete together.

"What a wonderful gesture to have U.S. and Chinese players competing together in mixed doubles in the World Table Tennis Championships," Sweeris said. She added that relationships between countries always encounter problems and differences. "This gesture of the U.S. and China competing together will produce cooperation and strengthen the ties between the two countries."

Liang Geliang, a six-time table tennis world champion (ZHANG WEI)

Liang Geliang, a "ping-pong diplomat" from China and a six-time table tennis world champion, echoed Sweeris' views. "The team-up is a significant step to enhance the people-to-people exchanges between China and the U.S. It's expected to usher in a new chapter in the legacy of ping-pong diplomacy," he told Beijing Review.

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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