Vol. 18 (2011)

Mr. Gotō Goes to Beijing: The Origin of Ping-Pong Diplomacy


This article examines the pivotal role that Gotō Kōji (1906-1972), president of the Japan Table Tennis Association (JTTA) and Table Tennis Federation of Asia (TTFA), played in paving the way for Sino-U.S. rapprochement in 1972. Gotō made it possible for China—which was waging the Cultural Revolution, banning Chinese table tennis players from competing at international tournaments, and executing Chinese table tennis world champions and persecuting their coaches—to participate in the thirty-first World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan, in March-April 1971. Were it not for Gotō’s initiative, Premier Zhou Enlai could not have deployed “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” in 1971 and President Richard Nixon would likely not have visited China in 1972.