How Ping-pong diplomacy broke the mold
History unfolded when athletes visited nearly 50 years ago
Editor's note: In Footprint, a series of articles recalling important examples of China's interactions with the world, we follow the path the country has taken in the past seven decades.
On April 7, 1971, the last day of competition at the 31st World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan, Connie Sweeris, the reigning champion from the United States, was called to a team meeting.
"We were told that we had been invited to visit China," she said. "But no American had been allowed into China for 22 years."
Three days later, Sweeris was looking out a train window at an extended patchwork of rice paddies, dotted by men carrying buckets of water hanging from poles across their shoulders.
The train was taking Sweeris and her teammates－a party of 15, including nine players－from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, Guangdong province, where they would start a weeklong visit to China.