In 2012 it is exactly 40 years ago that president Nixon visited China, an important historical event because he was the first American president to visit the country. In July 1971, only a year before Nixon’s trip to China, the U.S. table tennis team was suddenly invited to visit China. The Berkshire Encyclopedia of China article on Ping-Pong Diplomacy explains what these two events have to do with each other, and what their significance was, and is, for U.S-China relations.

The Chinese Ping-Pong team in front of the Statue of Liberty, 1972. COURTESY OF NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR UNITED STATES–CHINA RELATIONS

More articles on US-China relations:

The importance of sport is not limited to physical benefits or national pride. It can play, and indeed has played, an important role in international relations. Read Stephen Orlins’  (President of the NCUSCR) article “The Evolving Role of Sports Diplomacy,” or the speech he gave at the China Sports Leadership Forum in 2010 to find out more about the importance of sports for US-China relations.

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“The Week that Changed the World” is an hour-long documentary from the USC US-China Institute about Nixon’s visit to China, and the implications for international relations. Watch the video here.