Can America and China’s table tennis come to peace again?

Players from both countries will compete in mixed doubles at the World Table Tennis Championships in Houston this week to mark an important milestone in sporting and diplomatic history.

50 years ago, Chinese leader Mao Zedong invited the US table tennis team to China. A series of friendlies then helped to break the ice before Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s groundbreaking and secretive trip to China a few months later – which resulted in President Richard Nixon opening the doors to the reclusive giant. then and finally put it on the path to where it is today. rising superpower status.

If ever a new goodwill breakthrough was needed, it is now. US-China relations are at their lowest point since China reopened to the world, with disputes simmering over Taiwan, human rights, the repression of Uighur Muslims and construction Beijing’s army.

The Pentagon is recently sounded the alarm about Beijing testing hypersonic weapons, and almost every major strategic decision by Washington is viewed through the lens of a constructive confrontation with China. Although Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week in the hope of easing tensions, he is now under political pressure to call a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

That’s plenty for a few rubber cushions and some bouncing plastic balls to fix. But table tennis has worked before.

Two pairs of matches will try to close the geopolitical gap in Texas: China’s Lin Gaoyuan will play Lily Zhang of the United States, while Kanak Jha of the United States will play China’s Wang Manyu.

Liu Guoliang, President of the World Table Tennis Council, described the tournament in Houston not only an opportunity to mend relationships across the Pacific, but also a victory over the pandemic.

“These athletes, who are friends, can compete together; so that the fans of the two countries can cheer them on, opening a new chapter of Ping Pong Diplomacy in this new era,” Liu said. speak.


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