April 10, 2012, marked the 41st anniversary of “Ping Pong Diplomacy”, the surprise invitation from the Chinese government for the U.S. National Table Tennis Team to visit China and play against the Chinese team. Here’s a link to the Chinese Pod story I read: http://chinesepod.com/blog/Ping-Pong+Diplomacy+and+a+Changing+World+%5B+ChinesePod+Weekly+%5D/997.
The U.S. National Table Tennis team had been in Nagoya, Japan, participating in the Table Tennis World Championships. According to the story U.S. star player Glenn Cowan had missed his team’s bus back to their hotel. China’s star player Zhuang Zedong befriended Cowan and invited him to ride back to the hotel with the Chinese team.
News of Zhuang’s gesture reached Beijing and China’s leadership extended an invitation to the US team to visit China. Four days later on April 10, 1981, the U.S. National Table Tennis Team became the first Americans to visit China in an official capacity since founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
In February 1972 President Richard Nixon made his historic weeklong visit to China.
The story demonstrates that contacts between private individuals can be more powerful than the acts of “great men”.