– In Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of China-U.S. Ping-Pong Diplomacy
This year marks the 50th anniversary of China-U.S. Ping-Pong diplomacy. In April 1971, the U.S. table tennis team, which was attending the 31st World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan, paid a visit to China at the invitation of the Chinese table tennis team. One year later, the Chinese team made a return visit to the United States. During the visits, both teams were warmly welcomed and received by each other’s country and people. The two sides enabled the little ball to move the big ball, thus thawing the ice of over two decades of estrangement between the two countries.
Back fifty years ago, the elder generation of Chinese and American leaders-Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai, President Richard Nixon and Dr. Henry Kissinger-acted in the common interests of the two peoples and demonstrated strategic vision and extraordinary political courage, with their strategic decision to reopen the door of exchanges between China and the United States. They were personally involved in the decision-making to bring about the Ping-Pong diplomacy. In July 1971, Dr. Kissinger paid a secret visit to China. In February 1972, President Nixon visited China. A “handshake that crossed the vast Pacific Ocean” was realized between China and the United States, which opened a new chapter in relations between the two countries.
Over the past five decades, China-U.S. relations have braved wind and rain and continued to move forward and score historic achievements. This has not only brought real benefits to the two countries and peoples but also contributed significantly to world peace, stability and prosperity.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China-U.S. trade has kept growing on a steady basis. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, trade in goods grew by 8.3 percent last year to exceed US$580 billion. In the first quarter of this year, two-way trade surged by 61.3 percent over the same period of last year. Such trade and economic cooperation has served the mutual benefit of the two sides over the years.
China and the United States have joined forces for the conclusion of the Paris Agreement on climate change, lending important impetus to global climate cooperation. On 22 April, President Xi Jinping attended the Leaders Summit on Climate at the invitation of President Joe Biden and delivered important remarks. President Xi underlined that China looks forward to working with the international community including the United States to jointly advance global environmental governance. At an earlier date, the two sides also released a Joint Statement Addressing the Climate Crisis in Shanghai. China and the United States worked together in responding to the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 international financial crisis, making important contribution to international financial stability and world economic recovery. China and the United States have carried out trilateral cooperation on food security in Timor-Leste and jointly combated Ebola in Africa. The two sides have also coordinated effectively in such fields as counter-terrorism, nonproliferation, anti-narcotics, disease prevention and control and peacekeeping, and have maintained communication and coordination on the Middle East and other regional hotspot issues.
Chinese leaders have been involved on a personal basis in promoting people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. Over the years, President Xi Jinping has attached great importance to and been personally engaged in people-to-people interactions between the two sides. His 30-year long friendship with old friends in Iowa and his support to Elizabeth Gardner who, in her late 70s, fulfilled her late husband’s wish to revisit Guling in Fujian province, are all fondly remembered stories of China-U.S. people-to-people exchanges.
Since the mutual visits between the two table tennis teams in 1972, Chinese and American table tennis players have engaged in frequent exchanges. In 2002, the Chinese table tennis team was invited to Chicago and Los Angeles, where three generations of table tennis players from both sides gathered to renew the friendship initiated by Ping-Pong diplomacy. The two sides have also enjoyed close exchanges and cooperation in the field of arts and culture and on natural disaster response, and have supported and assisted each other in addressing COVID-19.
There are now 50 pairs of sister provinces and states and 232 pairs of sister cities between the two countries. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, people across sectors in the two countries have maintained frequent contacts, through either phone calls, correspondence or video conferences. All these come as the result of long-term dedication and commitment by Chinese and American peoples through generations, and all must be cherished and taken good care of by both countries.