Arts, Culture & Media

Remembering Zhuang Zedong, Hero of Ping Pong Diplomacy



A city in Japan figures in our Geo Quiz on Monday. So does ping pong.

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First, the Japanese city. This city of 3 million looks out on the Pacific Ocean.

It's located on central Honshu island and its a major industrial port that competes with Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe.

This capital of Aichi Prefecture was once the center of Japan's aircraft industry. US bombers attacked it during WWII devastating much of the city.

Monday's city is home to Japan's automotive industry: Toyota's Lexus brand, and Mitsubishi are headquartered there.

But this Japanese city also played an instrumental role in shaping US-China relations.

Something happened there in 1971 which was the catalyst for "ping-pong diplomacy."

Remember that? It was what led to Richard Nixon's historic trip to China a year later.

Chinese ping-pong player Zhuang Zedong has died at the age of 73. Zhuang was the Chinese player who started the famous "ping-pong diplomacy" episode in the 1970s.

It's what led to Richard Nixon's famous opening to China, and his historic trip there.

US table tennis historian Tim Boggan remembers the era well. In 1971, Boggan traveled with the American team to the World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan. Zhuang Zedong was there with the Chinese team.

Boggan says ping pong diplomacy started after a top American player missed the team bus one day.

So Nagoya, Japan is where ping pong diplomacy was born. Which makes Nagoya the answer to our Geo Quiz.

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    Chinese table tennis champion Zhuang Zedong, right, competing in Beijing in 1961 (Photo: Xinhua)

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    Chinese Table tennis legend Zhuang Zedong (Photo: Xinua)

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    Chinese champion Zhuang Zedong and U.S. team member Glenn Cowan (right) exchange gifts in Nagoya, Japan, 1971 (Photo: Xinhua)

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    Former table tennis world champion Zhuang Zedong poses next to pictures on the wall depicting the Ping Pong diplomacy -- which paved the way for U.S. President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972 -- at a primary school in Beijing April 17, 2007. Zhuang, a three-time table tennis world champion in the 1960s, sparked the diplomatic initiative by giving a silk scarf to an American player at the 1971 table tennis world championships in Japan. Picture taken April 17, 2007. To go with feature OLYMPICS-BEIJING/DIPLOMACY REUTERS/Nick Mulvenney (CHINA) - RTR1QHSJ