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Consul General Zhang Ping's Remarks at the Event Marking the 50th Anniversary of Chinese Ping-Pong Team's First Visit to the US
(March20, 2022)
2022-03-25 09:30

It gives me great pleasure to attend tonight's event to commemorate with both our old friends and new friends the 50th anniversary of the first visit of the Chinese table tennis team to the United States

I am particularly pleased that the Ping Pong Diplomacy participants, Vice President Jan Berris of the National Committee on US-China Relations, who accompanied the Chinese table tennis delegation throughout its tour in the US, and Mr. and Mrs. Sweeris, the then US Table Tennis players who visited China in 1971, have also joined us together with the current US Olympic Committee and US Table Tennis Association officials and the active members of the US table tennis team.

I would like to express my special thanks to President Cai and the Southern California Chinese-American Federation for organizing this event, which enables us to revisit this precious history of China-US Ping-Pong Diplomacy 50 years ago and pay tribute to the elder generation of Chinese and US leaders and those who played their parts in Ping-Pong Diplomacy for their contribution to the China-US relations.

We all know about the fascinating story about the Ping-Pong Diplomacy. During the 1971 Nagoya World Table Tennis Championships, an American player accidentally hopped on a shuttle bus that carried the Chinese team where Chinese and American players had a friendly interaction. This opened up the subsequent classic chapter of “a small ball moving the big ball” in the history of China-US relations. 

Under the arrangement of Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai, the US table tennis team made a historic trip to China in April 1971 and one year later the Chinese team made a returned visit, becoming the first delegation from the New China to visit the United States.  During that returned visit, the Chinese ping pong delegation visited a number of cities including Los Angeles and received a warm welcome from the American people. President Nixon also met with the delegation at the White House. As a matter of fact, the National Committee on US-China Relations played the host of the visit. 

The Ping-Pong Diplomacy ended the 22-year of estrangement between the two countries, paving the way for the realization of the "handshake across the Pacific". In February 1972, President Nixon made the historic visit to China and the two sides issued Shanghai Communiqué. This groundbreaking diplomatic move pushed forward the normalization process of China-US relations and created a profound impact on the evolution of the international landscape.

It has been 50 years since President Nixon's visit to China and the Chinese table tennis team's visit to the United States, and 43 years have passed since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States. Over these years, despite many twists and turns, ups and downs, China-US relations have been forging ahead and made historic achievements. Fruitful cooperation in various fields and close people-to-people exchanges have brought tangible benefits to both sides. Today, the seeds of friendship sowed through Ping-Pong Diplomacy are deeply rooted in the hearts of two peoples and have grown into a towering tree, providing strong impetus to China-US relations. More and more Americans get fond of the sport of table tennis. It has become an important carrier of friendship between the Chinese and American people.

Today, the legacy of Ping-Pong Diplomacy is being passed on among the younger generation of our two countries. In 2019, for the first time, Chinese and US national teams did a 20-day joint training in UCLA, where athletes from both countries had the opportunity to improve their skills by practicing together and learning from each other. Last November, the Chinese and American players reunited at the Houston World Table Tennis Championships. They paired up in the mixed doubles and won a bronze medal, writing a new chapter of Ping-Pong Diplomacy.

This afternoon, my colleagues, Chinese students and community members and local young table tennis fans joined together and had a wonderful time playing friendship matches. Here once again we felt the spirit of "Friendship first, competition second" and what it means to China-US relations.  

The friendship between the peoples is the foundation of state-to-state relations. Ping-Pong Diplomacy is a wonderful story in the history of China-US relations, creating a successful example of promoting the development of state-to-state relations through friendly people-to-people exchanges. Ping-Pong Diplomacy epitomizes the goodwill and sincere friendship of Chinese and American people towards each other, which transcends the ideological differences and brings our two peoples closer together, providing a solid social foundation in support of the development of China-US relations.

At the moment, as the China-US relationship stands at a critical juncture and facing serious challenges, we need more than ever to carry forward the legacy of Ping-Pong Diplomacy. The big ball of China-US relations still needs the force of many small balls like the ping pong ball to move it forward. We need to present the same kind of strategic vision, political courage and wisdom that were demonstrated by Chairman Mao, Premier Zhou, President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger back then when opening the door of communication between our two countries, and handle our relationship in accordance with the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation proposed by President Xi Jinping, make an earnest to find the right way to get along with each other and steer the relationship back onto the right track of sound and stable development. 

We shall not use competition to define China-US relations, neither shall we let competition dominate the future relationship. As President Nixon said, “We know that in the course of your contest, there will be winners and losers. But the big winner will be friendship between the people of the United States and China.” To ensure that we will have a better relationship to benefit our future generations, we should make friendship a tenacious bond linking our two peoples and leading the way for the continuous development of China-US relations.

We need the continued efforts by friends of all walks of life and I am grateful for all you have done in promoting better understanding and friendship between our two peoples.      

Thank you.

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