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Chicago celebrates 40th anniversary of China-U.S. "ping pong diplomacy"


18:55, December 20, 2011

CHICAGO, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Prominent members of Chinese and U.S. communities in Chicago came together Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of "ping pong diplomacy."

Those attending the Chinese American Association of Greater Chicago event shared reflections on how much the China-U.S. relationship had evolved since the table tennis initiative led to the establishment of diplomatic ties in the early 1970s.

Chinese Consul General to Chicago Yang Guoqiang said, "We have witnessed the extraordinary progress and the most remarkable change, and it is because of ping pong diplomacy, because of the friendship created in that game that led us to the most dynamic and most important bilateral relations today in the world." He said he was optimistic about the future.

This invitation for a friendly ping pong game between the two nations later paved the way for a visit by then U.S. President Richard Nixon to China, and eventually the formal reopening of a diplomatic relationship that has grown to become one of the most-watched in the world.

"The two governments are cooperating with each other to deal with many of the hotspot issues in the world today, working together on many, many critical issues ... We have far more in common interests to work together," Yang said.

Former president of the Midwest U.S. Chinese Association John Rogers also gave a presentation on the relationship and how the two countries had become closer through the years.

Although Rogers' slides included the requisite charts tracking China's rapid economic growth, his and the crowd's favorite parts were a series of black and white pictures all done in the same ping pong diplomacy spirit, from Nixon getting a chopsticks lesson from Zhou Enlai, to Deng Xiaoping trying on a cowboy hat in Texas.

Both Rogers and Yang agreed that perhaps the most important thing for strengthening China-U.S. relations in the future were these very ordinary people-to-people exchanges that take place everyday in cross-cultural friendships, and the continued learning experiences such exchanges present.

According to Yang, there are currently 40,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. Midwestern district alone. With the "cultural ambassadorship" of these students and the thousands of U.S. businesses expanding in the Chinese mainland every year, Yang and many others hope the relationship will only grow stronger.

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