China, US pair up for 'ping-pong diplomacy'

BEIJING • China and the United States will team up for the mixed doubles at the World Table Tennis Championships, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) said on Monday.

The tournament, which started yesterday, marks the 50th anniversary of "ping-pong diplomacy".

It was triggered by a meeting between a Chinese and an American player at the 1971 world championships and helped mend relations between the two countries.

That resulted in an American table tennis team being invited to China to play what the Chinese know as "ping-pong", ultimately paving the way for then United States president Richard Nixon's trip to the country in 1972.

China's Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Manyu will partner Americans Lily Zhang and Kanak Jha, respectively, at the event in Houston, which runs until next Monday, the ITTF said.

This is the first time the championships have been held in the US.

"I'm really happy to be partnering with Lily Zhang for the mixed doubles event," Lin said. "She's the top table tennis player in the US. I'm not China's top player yet, but our goal is to come out on top for this event.

"The biggest advantage about pairing with her is that she speaks Mandarin.

"I hope we can get into the groove soon, develop good chemistry and work hard towards a great performance."

Echoed Zhang: "It's so cool to pair with a Chinese national team player. They're the best in the world, so I will do my best and hopefully, we can work well together and get a good result."

The Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) and the US Table Tennis Association together submitted the request to allow China-US pairs to compete to the ITTF and its executive committee approved the request on Sunday, according to the statement.

"We have been thinking about how we can build on the China-US friendship kick-started by our predecessors 50 years ago, and further enhance this relationship through sports events, sports activities and community events," Liu Guoliang, World Table Tennis Council chair and president of the CTTA, said.

Virginia Sung, chief executive officer of USA Table Tennis, said: "As it did so many years ago, sport is once again showing us the power of unity, and ping-pong is once again changing the course of history."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2021, with the headline China, US pair up for 'ping-pong diplomacy'. Subscribe