Tuesday, 6 April 2021

ping-pong diplomacy

Marking a significant improvement in Sino-American relations and enabling a visit by Richard Nixon the following year, the US Table Tennis team competing for the world championship in Nagoya, Japan received an official invitation on this day in 1971 to come to Beijing. Aside from delegations of eleven members aligned with the Black Panther political party (W. E. B. DuBois, Huey P. Newton) that followed Maoist principles who visited from 1959 through the early 1970s, these players and entourage of journalists—arriving on the tenth—were the first US citizens to enter the PRC since 1949, due to an embargo imposed by America that cut all diplomatic and economic ties over its involvement in the Korean War. Using this friendly competition as a segue to thaw relations, China opened and America was receptive, hoping to win over China as an arbitrator for the war in North Vietnam, and China was hoping to find a counterbalance for increasingly strained dealings with the Soviet Union.