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Press Release
May 27, 2008

National Archives Highlights “Ping Pong Diplomacy” in August

Special Program and Document Display Mark Historical Sporting Event

More Information

Washington, DC…In recognition of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing this summer, the National Archives presents a special program on August 6, at noon, and a document display on “Ping Pong Diplomacy” — athletic event that became part of diplomatic history. Both the program and display will take place at the National Archives Building, which is located on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW, and is open daily from 10 AM to 7 PM.

Featured Document Display:  Ping Pong Diplomacy
August 1-28, East Rotunda Gallery
The display highlights a State Department “Intelligence Brief” noting remarks made by Chinese Premier Chou En-lai to the U.S. table tennis team during their visit to China. The Premier emphasized the “new page” in the relationship between the United States and China with the adoption of a “people’s diplomacy.” The display also includes a picture of the U.S. table tennis team at the Great Wall of China in April 1971.

History Declassified: Nixon in China
Wednesday, August 6, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater
In conjunction with the featured document display, The Charles Guggenheim Center for the Documentary Film at the National Archives presents this 2004 ABC News Productions documentary that tells the unknown story behind one of the greatest diplomatic coups in history—President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China in February of 1972. History Declassified: Nixon in China combines previously secret U.S. documents gathered by the National Security Archive with available evidence from Chinese files to reveal details of the dramatic diplomacy that remained hidden for 30 years. The 45-minute program won the 2005 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in News & Documentary Research.

Dr. Michael Kurtz, Assistant Archivist for Records Services, will provide welcoming remarks. William Burr, Senior Analyst at the National Security Archive, will introduce the film and take questions.

Background on “Ping Pong Diplomacy”

In April, 1971, an informal and friendly exchange between athletes from the United States and the People’s Republic of China table tennis teams signaled a warming of relations between the two countries and made diplomatic history. On April 6, 1971, officials from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) unexpectedly invited the American table tennis, or Ping-Pong, team to join players from other nations in a tour of their country. When the U.S. team accepted the invitation and invited the PRC team to tour the United States at a later date, journalists began to use the term, “Ping-Pong Diplomacy.”

Although official relations did not exist between the United States and the PRC at the time of the American athletes’ visit, the U.S. Department of State created and distributed this “Intelligence Brief” summarizing the implications of the PRC’s invitation. After the visit, further diplomatic approaches and negotiations paved the way for the first visit of a U.S. President, Richard M. Nixon, to China in February 1972. Diplomatic relations were established between the two countries by 1979.

The National Archives is fully accessible. To request an accommodation (e.g., sign language interpreter) for a public program please e-mail public.program@nara.gov or call 202-357-5000 two weeks prior to the event. For information on National Archives Public Programs, call 202-357-5000, or view the Calendar of Events online.

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For press information contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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