50th Anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy

[Zhuang Zedong, born in 1940, the main player of the 26th, 27th, 28th, and 31st World Ping Championship Men’s Team Champion, the 26th, 27th, and 28th World Ping Championship Men’s Triple Crown. He was the head coach of the national youth team in 1972 and was the director of the National Sports Commission from 1974 to October 1976.

On March 28, 1971, the Chinese table tennis team returned after six years to participate in the 31st World Table Tennis Championship in Nagoya, Japan, and on the morning of April 4, the American athlete Cohen made the mistake of boarding the Chinese team’s bus, and Zhuang Zedong went up to talk with him, starting the “ping pong diplomacy” that shocked the world. Since then, the “small ball has turned into a big ball” and changed the world landscape ……

Recently, Zhuang Zedong’s teammates, Li Furong, Zhang Xuelin, Zheng Minzhi, and others, have restored the dusty past of 50 years ago in the book “The Cradle of the National Ball: Interviews with Shanghai’s Famous Ping Pong Players” from the perspective of those who lived it.

Li Furong: Zhuang Zedong Dared to Stand Up for Himself, but the President Complimented Him on His “Diplomatic Mind”, which is Impossible

Li Furong, born in 1942, was the main player of the 26th, 27th, 28th, and 31st World Championship Men’s Team, and the runner-up of the 26th, 27th, and 28th World Championship Men’s Singles. He was the head coach of the Chinese men’s team, director of the Training Bureau of the State Sports Commission, vice chairman of the Chinese Ping Pong Association, and vice-director of the State General Administration of Sports.]

Li Fuyong: The 31st World Ping Pong Tournament was the time of the famous “Ping Pong Diplomacy” incident. Zhuang Zedong was involved, and I was a witness and a beneficiary. On that day, we were about to take a bus to the stadium, and the car was already started when Cohen, an American athlete who had been left alone, jumped into our car. At that time, people in the car were thinking about their own things, such as the normal ride, or the fact that it was an American, so they should pay attention to their speech and behavior, unlike what Zhuang Zedong said later: an American suddenly appeared, and no one dared to pay attention to him. At that time, Zhuang Zedong brought an interpreter and went up to talk with Cohen, and gave him a piece of brocade as a gift.

As soon as our car stopped, the sniffing reporters gathered around, and Zhuang Zedong and Cohen became the center of attention at once. In fact, the reason why they attracted so much attention was that, on the one hand, Zhuang was a three-time world champion and, on the other hand, he was a man who liked to stand up for himself and dared to do so. As for the legend that the top leaders praised him for his “diplomatic acumen”, this is impossible considering the big picture of the relationship between China and the United States. It was only inadvertently that a small matter became a big one.

Zhang Xielin: Zhuang Zedong’s relationship with Cohen is “God’s will”, others may not be “fired” up

He was the head coach of the Chinese women’s team from 1974 to 1995. He was the deputy director of the Ping and Feather Management Center of the State Sports Commission and the vice president of the Chinese Ping Pong Association.

Zhang Xuelin: At the 31st World Ping Pong Championship, Zhuang Zedong’s involvement with American athlete Cohen was a world sensation. In my opinion, it was a coincidence, or rather providence, there was no prior arrangement.

At that time, our coach towards the stadium was not yet open, while all the other shuttles were driving away, and Cohen took a look at our coach door still open and jumped on. At first, we were sitting in our respective seats, talking and laughing, all quite relaxed. The result is that Cohen immediately turned his face toward the car door, the back of his clothes printed the USA. instantly, we all look at me, I look at you, are frozen. At this time, Zhuang Zedong went up to talk to him, Xiao Zhuang asked the interpreter, did you bring any souvenirs? The interpreter said there was a silk fabric from Hangzhou.

As for why it was Zhuang Zedong who greeted and spoke to Cohen? One reason is that he likes to strike up a conversation, and according to him, before the visit, we were studying, among other things, what Chairman Mao said, that the U.S. government should be different from the Americans. This is true, and Zhuang Zedong should have understood it a little better than we did. At the same time, Zhuang Zedong, as a world champion, has great influence; if it were a general staff member, this matter would not be “fired”.

Zheng Minzhi: Zhuang Zedong has done a great job!

He was born in 1945 and was the main player of the 28th World Championship Women’s Team, the winner of the 28th and 31st World Championship Women’s Doubles (with Emily Lin), and the runner-up of the 31st World Championship Women’s Singles, and the coach, deputy leader, and deputy head coach of the national team after 1974. Served as Deputy Director of the Second Department of Training and Competition of the National Sports Commission and Vice President of the China Ping Pong Association.

Zheng Minzhi: Zhuang Zedong made a mark at the 31st World Ping Pong Championship. I thought that what Zhuang Zedong did and said was actually the result of the Premier’s education. I remember that before we left, the Premier told us that the American people were good and that it was important to distinguish the government from the people. What is civil diplomacy? Civilian diplomacy is people’s diplomacy, which means making friends. So, when Zhuang Zedong did this, it should be very natural, not deliberate.

Soon after, the Premier convened a foreign affairs meeting of relevant departments in the Great Hall of the People and also informed the main players of our table tennis team to attend. We sat a few rows back and listened to the Premier’s speech. The Premier said, “The U.S. table tennis team is visiting China, so our Chinese team can go too! Zhuang Zedong, Li Fuyong, Lin Emily, and Zheng Minzhi could also go! This time, it’s not Ji Pengfei (Foreign Minister) who is going to the U.S., it’s our athletes who are going, and Zhuang Zedong can be the head of the team. In fact, to go to the United States, we all want to go, but no one dares to say I want to go. Because the Prime Minister named, this is the rightful name, otherwise, it may not be my turn.

Editor’s note: Without Zhuang Zedong, Sino-American relations would have improved. It is just that there would have been a time lag, or another entry point would have been chosen. The reason why Zhuang Zedong became the initiator of “Ping-Pong diplomacy” is a matter of chance, but also a historical necessity.

There is no denying that Zhuang Zedong’s personal character was also a factor in this. A car full of people, it is said that everyone “equal opportunity”. See Cohen alone in there, but others are afraid to go forward. Perhaps they are also muttering in their hearts, should not go over to talk to it? But the subconscious told them, more is better than less.

The reason why Zhuang Zedong is different is that he is kind-hearted and does not fall into tolerance; secondly, he is open-minded and simple; thirdly, he does not rule out the fact that he is a ping-pong v. I will do so, forgive me, you will not put me how to drop.

This is a big “pie” that fell on Zhuang Zedong’s head, not by chance; people, always character determines fate.

Leave a Reply