The Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy in Shanghai on April 10.

Upon the invitation of China, the US table tennis delegation visited China in 1971 after participating in the 31st World Championships. The trip paved the way for the re-establishment of Sino-US relations that had been suspended for 22 years. The event became known as Ping-Pong Diplomacy.

One of the attendees of the event would be Yao Zhenxu, a 74-year-old who participated in this exchange.

A former table tennis player for the Shanghai team, the People’s Liberation Army team, and the national team, Yao played a match with Glen Cowan of the US during the exchange. He also accompanied the US table tennis delegation during their visit to Shanghai.

“At that time, I didn’t think it was a big deal. But now it seems that we were going through something of great historical significance,” said Yao, who has served as deputy leader and leader of the national table tennis team, as well as vice chairman and Secretary-General of the China Table Tennis Association.

“Just like the diplomatic telegrams that Chairman Mao Zedong would send to the US, the Chinese leader hit the ping-pong ball to Nixon (Richard Milhous Nixon, the 37th President of the United States), and waited to see how his counterpart would respond,” he said.

“I hope that China and the United States can cherish this hard-earned friendship.”

Yao Zhenxu, a 74-year-old attendee of the Ping-Pong Diplomacy, recalls the historic event that took place in 1971. [Photo by He Qi/Newsvase.com]