US-Chinese players team up on worlds to mark ‘ping-pong diplomacy’

Beijing, China (AFP) American and Chinese table tennis players will join forces at the World Cup finals in Houston to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “ping pong diplomacy,” the sport’s governing body said Monday.

China’s Lin Gaoyuan will play with American Lily Zhang this week, while Wang Manyu will join forces with Kanak Jha in mixed doubles at this week’s tournament, according to the International Table Tennis Federation.

The two US-Chinese combinations “build on the friendship between China and the US” and open “a new chapter of ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ in this new era,” Liu Guoliang, president of the China Table Tennis Association, said in a statement.

The ITTF stated that “history will be made in Houston”.

“Ping-pong diplomacy” refers to a series of friendly matches between Chinese and American teams in 1971 that eventually paved the way for formal diplomatic relations between Washington and an isolated Beijing.

The 50th anniversary comes amid tense relations between the two countries, with the world’s two largest economies at odds over a number of issues, including the fate of China’s Uyghur minority and an oppression in Hong Kong.

But Chinese officials and state media have hailed the anniversary as a largely positive occasion to celebrate the “wonderful legacy” of table tennis diplomacy.

The finals of the world championships will take place from November 23-29.

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