乒乓外交 (Pīngpāng wàijiāo), the ping pong diplomacy, is regarded as one of the most important events leading to the normalization of the US-Chinese relationship after the Cold War.
In 1971, the ping pong world championship was held in Nagoya, Japan. After training overtime one day, American ping pong player Glenn Cowan missed his team bus and was picked up by the Chinese team’s bus. The Chinese player Zhuāng Zédòng came over and offered him a silk scarf with a picture of the famous Huángshān Mountain. The next day, Cowan returned the favor, giving Zhuāng a red-white-blue t-shirt with the words “Let It Be”.
The media went crazy. The American team was invited to visit China as the first Americans since the revolution in 1949. Premier Zhōu Ēnlái personally greeted them in the Great Hall of the People. And the very next year, President Nixon went to China to negotiate normalization with Chairman Máo.
Wanna be cross-cultural? Do like Glenn Cowan and Zhuāng Zédòng! Sports 163