Read: December 2021

Inspiration: What does ping-pong have to do with diplomacy?


Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.

“Ping Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World”, published in 2014 by author Nicholas Griffin, tells the story of the role that table tennis played in the normalization of relations between the United States and China in the 1970s. Griffin discusses the events leading up to the ping pong diplomacy, including the Cold War tensions between the two countries and the role that sports and cultural exchange played in easing those tensions. He also covers the ping pong diplomacy itself, including the historic visit of the U.S. table tennis team to China and the subsequent visit of the Chinese team to the United States. The book offers a unique and fascinating look at the role that a seemingly trivial event like a table tennis match can play in shaping international relations.

Unedited Notes

Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.

Ivor Montagu born into wealthy house of lords family but develop interest in socialism/communism ~1920s, ivor work for commintern (soviet international communication arm), ivor start table tennis association—popular game spread through europe among elites, ivor entrenched in russia through war (use england status to collect info, and table tennis gather elites/temper suspicions), huge popularity during wartime, ivor’s brother ewen was high ranking british officer, ivor was soviet agent—friend of trotsky, ivor back stalin as well, post war ivor revive int’l table tennis federation to host world championships, ivor tailed by MI6 all along, turn to Asia post war to spread table tennis/propaganda, mao zedong want to wipe china of sick man of asia reputation—emphasize physical strength/sport, ping pong world championships allow china to improve image—coordinated by montagu, montagu got lenin peace prize 1959 USSR, mao and stalin get along but khruschev end relations 1960 as china want out of russia shadow amd krushchev meet with Eisenhower, 1961 beijing world champ was pride of china—use to mask horrors and famine of Great Leap Forward (china win to show all worth it despite tens of millions dead by mao for sake of “progress” “strength”), cultural revolution follow great leap as mao try to keep power (turn on culture and things of past to rally youth—harsh), shun ping pong champs b/c trophies are not about state/Mao, Red Guards=chinese, religiously pro Mao in cultural rev, kill for mao, 1971 ping pong champs in japan bring china back to sports and US there too—nixon want detente and mao consider (relations had been dead), china withdraw from champ when face hungary as political stance, Glenn Cowan US player end up on china bus and get gift from zhuang china champ—photo op as leave, political move Mao liked (claimed to be genuine) then Glen offer gift—diplomatic calc by china to set up, kissinger think calculated but serve both sides (think Enlai plan it all), china invite US team to 1971 champs 48 hours prior (US scramble with Kissinger, say not against US policy and team travels—unprecedented), post beijing champ—china viewed favorably in US to join UN—success, then in ’71 nixon bring china ping pong to US—diplomatic move, transition to politicians and US players neglected (brief fame post china visit to US then forget), china pong visit to US was during height of vietnam war and US bombings and protests

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Welcome to JeffReads, where I share summaries of the best books I’ve read on business, politics, science, technology and more.




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