Ambassador Xie Feng delivers remarks to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of ping-pong diplomacy


On the evening of December 13, the Chinese Embassy in the United States held an event to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of ping-pong diplomacy. Chinese Ambassador to the United States Xie Feng delivered remarks. Here's the full text of his speech: 

Vice President Fang Fang,

Director Cioroslan,

Vice President Berris,

Chair Char,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening!

As President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden just concluded a successful summit meeting in San Francisco, and our two countries will soon celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, it is a great pleasure to welcome Vice President Fang Fang and the delegation of the Peking University table tennis team to visit D.C. and have a friendly game. Among them are world champions Liu Wei and Ding Ning. Glad to have you here! 

We are also honored to have with us friends who were personally involved in ping-pong diplomacy: Connie Sweeris, American table tennis champion who went on the ice-breaking trip to China in 1971; her husband Dell Sweeris, and Ms. Jan Berris, who received the Chinese table tennis delegation visiting the United States in 1972; and Dr. Douglas Spelman, who interpreted for the Chinese delegation then. Let's give them a warm round of applause! 

Let me also thank all of you and other friends again for your long-time care and support for China-U.S. relations.

Dear friends,

Over half a century on, we can still draw much inspiration and wisdom from ping-pong diplomacy.

First, keep abreast of the times, and follow strategic guidance. In the shadow of the Cold War 52 years ago, with a keen grasp of the historical trend, Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai, President Richard Nixon and Dr. Henry Kissinger demonstrated extraordinary strategic vision, political courage and diplomatic wisdom, reopened the doors between China and the United States with a small ball, and set off the normalization of bilateral relations. Their decision significantly changed the international landscape and reshaped the course of world history. Dr. Kissinger passed away two weeks ago, but his name will always go down in the history of China-U.S. relations.

At their historic summit in San Francisco last month, President Xi and President Biden discussed the right way for China and the United States to get along with each other in the new era, and fostered a future-oriented San Francisco vision. President Xi pointed out that China and the United States need to jointly develop a right perception toward each other, jointly manage disagreements effectively, jointly advance mutually beneficial cooperation, jointly shoulder responsibilities as major countries, and jointly promote people-to-people exchanges. These are the five pillars for stabilizing and developing China-U.S. relations.

The summit has consolidated the momentum toward stabilizing China-U.S. relations, and injected much-needed certainty and stability into this turbulent and fluid world. It has been widely welcomed by both countries and the international community. History will prove that the summit is not only a highlight in China-U.S. relations this year, but also a milestone in the history of the bilateral relationship, which will have far-reaching influence on world peace and development. 

Second, boost people-to-people exchanges, and pool public support for China-U.S. relations. Both China and the United States are great countries. Both our peoples are kind, hardworking and down-to-earth, who are friendly toward and interested in each other. Neither the vast Pacific nor the 22-year-long ideological estrangement prevented our peoples from reaching out to one another. Just as Chairman Mao said, "The friendly exchanges between the peoples are simply unstoppable." 

When Premier Zhou asked the American friends whether they had any complaint during the 1971 trip, head of the U.S. delegation Graham Steenhoven said, "Eventually, I found something to criticize — That you always fed us too much." Such humor spoke volumes about how warmly they were received in China.

One of the most interesting collections at the National Museum of American Diplomacy is Connie's passport. On one of its pages, China had been originally listed among the countries "this passport is not valid for travel to," but the American officials took a black marker and carefully crossed out "China" to make the visit possible. Underlying that seemingly simple cross-off were decisiveness and creativity to act in line with the trend of the times, which remain indispensable today.

At the welcome dinner hosted by friendly American organizations in San Francisco last month, President Xi recalled fondly his friendship with the American people. He emphasized that the foundation of the China-U.S. relationship was laid by our peoples, its doors were opened by the peoples, its stories were written by the peoples, and its future will be created by the peoples. His words struck a chord with peoples of both countries.

Third, respect each other, and demonstrate good sportsmanship. Starting with ping-pong diplomacy, sport has served as a bridge between our two peoples. Yao Ming, who played for the Houston Rockets, has many fans in the United States. Earlier this year, NBA star Jimmy Butler travelled to Taipan Village, Guizhou Province, to take part in China's famous grassroots basketball tournament "VBA" (Village Basketball Association). During the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Chinese and American curlers exchanged pins after their match, and the hug with tears of joy between aerial skiers Ashley Caldwell and Xu Mengtao after Xu won gold melted the hearts of many.  

Sport is an integral part of both Eastern and Western civilizations. It is both about striving for the better, and about respecting and learning from each other to make progress together. It is about abiding by rules and ensuring fair play. One cannot be both the judge and the athlete, tie the hands of competitors, still less deny others an opportunity to be part of the game. One should focus on improving themselves instead of bringing others down, and play by the rule of the game instead of ganging up on the other side. Sport is also about embracing openness and inclusiveness, and rising above differences. There is no reason why competitors cannot also be friends.

Dear friends,

The China-U.S. relationship today is again at a crossroads. The era is calling on us to draw wisdom and strength from ping-pong diplomacy, stabilize and improve the relationship and ensure its sound, stable and sustainable development, so as to reassure our peoples and the world.

We need to re-break the ice between our countries. In recent years, the China-U.S. relationship has been at the lowest point since the diplomatic ties began, with a chill looming over exchanges and cooperation in various fields. This does not serve the interests of either side. The Cold War already ended, and there is no reason to reverse course. Since China and the United States managed to break the 22-year-long ice 52 years ago, we should have even greater confidence today to shake off the Cold War mentality, defy the "political correctness," and leap across the trap of major-country conflict.

As a Chinese proverb puts it, it takes more than one cold day to freeze three feet of ice. Naturally, the ice cannot thaw overnight. But we hope the U.S. side will work together with us, develop a correct perception toward each other, start with concrete steps from now, act on the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, and prevail over the zero-sum narrative with success stories of mutually beneficial cooperation.

We need to reinvigorate exchanges between our peoples. The Covid-19 virus hampered in-person communication, and trade and technology wars would only lead to conflict and confrontation. Only through engagement and dialogue can we avoid miscalculation, find a way out of the predicament and restore mutual trust.

To our encouragement, dialogue and interactions have been on the rise. Nearly 20 dialogue and exchange mechanisms have been revived. Direct flights have grown from only 20 every week early this year to 70, with those between Beijing and D.C. resumed three weeks ago.

People-to-people exchanges are coming back. Chinese art troupes from Suzhou, Chengdu, Quanzhou and Ningbo have brought performances to the United States, while the Philadelphia Orchestra and the American Ballet Theatre have toured China. Not long ago, Flying Tigers veterans including 103-year-old Harry Moyer and 98-year-old Mel McMullen visited China and climbed the Great Wall. The story soon became a top hit on Chinese social media and received numerous thumbs-up.

Mark Twain once observed that "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." We need to encourage our peoples to visit and interact with each other more often and join hands together.

We also need to embark on a new journey in the China-U.S. relationship. The summit in San Francisco is not a finish line, but a new starting point for bilateral relations. The pressing priority is to follow up on the meeting, enhance whole-process management, and in particular faithfully implement the common understandings reached between our Presidents, so as to stabilize and improve the bilateral relationship, turn the San Francisco vision into reality, and benefit both countries and the world.

China always honors its words with actions. We have taken a series of practical steps to boost economic cooperation and facilitate people-to-people exchanges. For instance, we have approved Mastercard NUCC's application to conduct bank card clearing operations in China, given the greenlight to Broadcom's acquisition of VMware, started providing walk-in visa application services, shortened the visa processing time, reduced visa fees, and significantly streamlined the border entry procedure.

We expect the U.S. side to move with us in the same direction and follow up with more actions. Especially, it is important to prevent any flip-flopping, and avoid making one step forward but then taking half or even two steps backward, lest it should cause new obstacles to bilateral relations.

Dear friends,

Later, we will have a mixed-team friendly game to review the history and renew the goodwill. The small ping-pong table can be a broad arena for athletes from both countries to bring out their best, and the vast Earth is big enough for China and the United States to prosper together.

Ping-pong diplomacy not only marks a significant chapter in history, but also represents a spirit that transcends time and space. Let's join hands to write more stories of friendship between our peoples, and explore the right way for China and the United States to get along in the new era together.

Thank you.

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