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Table tennis builds Sino-US friendship

By Tan Yingzi and Deng Rui in Chongqing | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-05 09:30
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As China and the United States celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, table tennis reconnected young people from both countries during a friendship tournament in Chongqing last weekend.

On Saturday, the China-US Amateur Table Tennis Club Friendship Tournament, a mixed-team competition, was held at Chongqing Sports Stadium — attracting five amateur athletes from the Maryland Table Tennis Center in the US state of Maryland, and five from the Chongqing Table Tennis United Team.

"Sports knows no boundaries," said Cheng Yinghua, general manager of the Maryland Table Tennis Center. "We hope to build a bridge for friendship and solidarity through the power of youth."

Cheng said the Maryland team members — three from the US plus one German and one Australian, with an average age of 19 — were visiting China for the first time.

"I really liked playing with the Chongqing players. They were all very skilled and I learned a lot," said 19-year-old Benicio Evans Nix, who plays at the Washington DC Table Tennis Club.

He said the team had also visited Chongqing's Fengmingshan High School — where the team members and the school players had lunch and a match.

"I think the sport is very good for international relations because it is a universal language that breaks down cultural barriers," he said. "I instantly had things in common with the other players even though I could barely speak with them."

Cheng said it had been "a warm, fruitful experience", adding that the team had also walked around the municipality. A 19-year-old woman on the team who hails from the US even got up at 6 am five days in a row and had a good time playing table tennis with local residents at a nearby park.

Cheng, born in Chongqing's Yuzhong district 65 years ago, was a former professional table tennis player who won multiple national championships. He moved to the US in 1988 after retirement.

To promote table tennis and develop talent in the sport in the US, Cheng founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center — the first privately-owned table tennis club and one of the first full-time table tennis clubs in the US — early in 1992.

"Table tennis is quite popular in the US," Cheng said, with the North American Table Tennis Teams Tournament, held annually around Thanksgiving, attracting enthusiasts from all over the US and entrants from around the world.

"The scene of over 1,000 players playing on some 150 tables together at the venue for three days is truly impressive," Cheng said.

"The US and China are currently in a period with misunderstandings, so efforts to strengthen friendship at a grassroots level like ours are essential," he said, adding that the pingpong diplomacy has a deep historical background.

The pingpong diplomacy of the early 1970s opened the door to eventual diplomatic relations between the US and the People's Republic of China.

Cheng said he would like to invite players from clubs in Chongqing and neighboring Sichuan province to the US.

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