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The nostalgia of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" and beyond

2011-12-09 14:26:00 Xinhuanet

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (front) and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter 
autograph on rackets during an activity to commemorate the 40th anniversary of 
Ping Pong Diplomacy, which led to the establishment of diplomatic relations 
between China and the United States, in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 8, 2011. 
(Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

BEIJING, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- When 15 year-old Judy Hoarfrost first set foot in China 40 years ago, the U.S. table tennis player knew little about the country other than the fact it was socialist, full of bicycles, and had no diplomatic ties with her country.

Forty years later, Hoarfrost has competed with several Chinese players on many occasions, and she even can shout "Jiayou," the Chinese slogan for cheering competitors, as she did on Thursday while playing with Chinese partners at a friendly match in Beijing.

Hoarfrost, who was a member of the first U.S. Ping-Pong team visiting China, has been a witness and participant of Sino-U.S. relations.

A ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of "Ping Pong Diplomacy" was held at the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing Thursday.

Vice President Xi Jinping and visiting former U.S. President Jimmy Carter attended the ceremony and watched friendly Ping-Pong matches.

Apart from recalling the fond memories, Xi called on China and the United States to bear in mind the spirit of seizing the day and hour.

"The two countries must fully draw on historic experience and strengthen dialogue, mutual trust and cooperation," said Xi at the ceremony.

Xi urged the two sides to handle sensitive issues carefully and properly on the basis of mutual respect and equality while efficiently managing differences in an effort to ensure the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations.

"People-to-people friendliness is the perpetual impetus and important foundation for the development of bilateral ties," Xi said, voicing the hope for closer people-to-people exchanges.

In the 40 years since those historic Ping-Pong games, bilateral ties have withstood ups and downs, he said.

Facts prove that working together is the only correct choice for the two countries and is also an irresistible trend, Xi said.

Carter, recalling his memories of 40 years ago, said he felt excited after hearing Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai invite U.S. table tennis players to China.

In 1971, nine American table tennis players were invited to Beijing for exhibition games, helping break the ice between China and the United States.

U.S. President Richard Nixon then paid a visit to China in 1972.

At a meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong, Nixon cited a few lines from Mao's poem when referring to bilateral ties, saying "ten thousand years are too long, seize the day, seize the hour."
Carter told Xi at the ceremony that there are differences between China and the United States, but they are a drop in the bucket compared to the common interests.

In 1979, Deng Xiaoping, who was at the time vice premier, paid an official visit to the United States as a guest of Carter. The visit marked the first trip by a Chinese leader to the United States.

Just four weeks before Deng's tour, on Jan. 1, 1979, China and the U.S.formally established diplomatic relations.

"Ping-Pong Diplomacy teaches us all a lesson that has always been nicety -- that is the friendship between our peoples is lasting, treasured and must be preserved," said the former president who first visited China in 1949 as a naval officer.

Sometimes, however, due to political pressure, the U.S.-China friendship rose high or dropped to a low level, Carter said.

"Competition is part of human nature," said Hoarfrost, who now runs a Ping-Pong shop. "The important thing is that we compete as friends and play fair."

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