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Ping pong diplomacy : the secret history behind the game that changed the world
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Fiction/Biography Profile
U.S.-China relations
World history
China - Asia
- United States
Time Period
1971 -- 20th century
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  Publishers Weekly Review

Griffin, a journalist, novelist, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, merges sport and diplomacy in a surprising story of how, for a moment in 1971, ping pong became a key player in world affairs. He analyzes the role the game played in Chinese politics while also profiling Ivor Montagu, a Jewish-British aristocrat who, driven by his love of ping pong and more private career as a communist spy, championed the growth of the International Table Tennis Federation. The invitation the American ping pong team received from China in 1971 was an unprecedented surprise, as was the impact of the match on world affairs. Griffin makes a strong case that the success of the American team's China trip played perfectly into President Richard Nixon's own historic China trip and the detente that altered world politics. Throughout, Griffin balances geopolitical context with sympathetic depictions of the world-class ping pong players who competed. Among them was Zhuang Zedong, the Chinese world champion who was disgraced during the dangerous days of the Cultural Revolution, and American star Glenn Cowan, who died homeless in 2004. Griffin has found an intriguing story with which to illuminate several important political events of the later 20th century and told it well. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Combining the insight of Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World and the intrigue of Ben Affleck's Argo , Ping Pong Diplomacy traces the story of how an aristocratic British spy used the game of table tennis to propel a Communist strategy that changed the shape of the world. <br> <br> THE SPRING OF 1971 heralded the greatest geopolitical realignment in a generation. After twenty-two years of antagonism, China and the United States suddenly moved toward a d#65533;tente--achieved not by politicians but by Ping-Pong players. The Western press delighted in the absurdity of the moment and branded it "Ping-Pong Diplomacy." But for the Chinese, Ping-Pong was always political, a strategic cog in Mao Zedong's foreign policy. Nicholas Griffin proves that the organized game, from its first breath, was tied to Communism thanks to its founder, Ivor Montagu, son of a wealthy English baron and spy for the Soviet Union.<br> <br> Ping-Pong Diplomacy traces a crucial inter#65533;section of sports and society. Griffin tells the strange and tragic story of how the game was manipulated at the highest levels; how the Chinese government helped cover up the death of 36 million peasants by holding the World Table Tennis Championships during the Great Famine; how championship players were driven to their deaths during the Cultural Revolution; and, finally, how the survivors were reconvened in 1971 and ordered to reach out to their American counterparts. Through a cast of eccentric characters, from spies to hippies and Ping-Pong-obsessed generals to atom-bomb survivors, Griffin explores how a neglected sport was used to help realign the balance of worldwide power.
Table of Contents
Author's Notep. xi
Prologuep. 1
Part 1The West
1Not-So-Humble Beginningsp. 5
2Gentlemanly Rebelp. 10
3Roast Beef and Russiap. 14
4The Dangers of Derisionp. 19
5Table Tennis and Trotskyp. 23
6Culture and the Coming Warp. 26
7Suspectp. 31
8Brothersp. 37
9The End of the Game?p. 42
10The Jewish Questionp. 46
Part 2The East
11Table Tennis Banditsp. 53
12The Trojan Dovep. 61
13The Rise of Asiap. 67
14Tiny Tornadoesp. 72
15Reconnaissancep. 77
16The Golden Gamep. 83
17Setting the Tablep. 87
18The End of Brotherhoodp. 91
19Preparationp. 96
20Sacrificep. 102
21Nourishing the Teamp. 106
22Ping-Pong Espionagep. 112
23Cheery Martial Musicp. 117
24The Chance to Shinep. 120
25Falloutp. 126
26Heroes of the Nationp. 129
27Spreading the Gospelp. 135
28The Grinding Haltp. 140
29Under Pressurep. 145
30House of Cardsp. 148
31Death to the Doubtersp. 153
32Down to the Countryp. 159
Part 3East Meets West
33The World at Warp. 165
34The Seeds of Peacep. 173
35Long Hair, Light Heartp. 178
36Could the Great Wall Crumble?p. 184
37A Measured Coincidencep. 188
38An Invitation Homep. 193
39Surprisep. 199
40Decisions to Be Madep. 203
41The Worriesp. 207
42Crossing the Bordersp. 210
43All Eyes on Americap. 217
44Tensionp. 222
45Nixon's Gamep. 228
46Political Ping-Pongp. 234
Part 4Aftermath
47Return Gamep. 241
48Capital Performancep. 247
49United Nationsp. 251
50The Hippie Opportunistp. 256
51The Heightsp. 262
52The Costsp. 265
Epiloguep. 273
Acknowledgmentsp. 277
Notesp. 281
Selected Bibliographyp. 317
Indexp. 325
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