‘Ping pong diplomacy’ hero dies

Updated 11 February 2013
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‘Ping pong diplomacy’ hero dies

BEIJING: Zhuang Zedong, a triple world champion table tennis star who played a crucial role in thawing relations between China and the US has died at the age of 73, the Chinese press reported yesterday.
His gift of a painting of the Huangshang Mountains to American player Glen Cowan in 1971 led to a US tour of China later that year, and preceded the historic visit of president Richard Nixon to the communist country in 1972.
It led to the coining of the phrase ‘ping pong diplomacy’.
Cowan’s unplanned role in the thawing of relations occurred when he was given a ride on the Chinese team’s bus after missing his lift while competing in Nagoya, Japan, which led to China inviting the US team and Nixon becoming the first American leader to visit the country.
That breakthrough led to improved relations between the two countries, which had been on ice since 1949 and eventually led to normal relations being resumed in 1979. Zhuang became a hero in the table-tennis mad country as millions tuned into his matches on radio and his triumphs at the 1961, 1963 and 1965 world championships, where his innovative penholders style and daring offensive backhand strokes took him to the peak of the game.
Zhuang — who was also subsequently to lead a Chinese table tennis delegation to the United States — reportedly ignored criticism from teammates who advised him not to approach the Americans.
He took the unprecedented step of presenting Cowan with the painting.
“Although the US government is unfriendly to China, the American people are friends of the Chinese. I give you this to mark the friendship from Chinese people to the American people.” The event caught the attention of Chinese leader Mao Zedong who swiftly offered an invitation to the Americans.
“Zhuang Zedong not only knows good ping-pong, he knows good diplomacy too,” were Mao’s reported remarks.
The twice-married Zhuang was later jailed after Mao’s death and the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976 before being released and going on to coach table tennis in the provinces.


US alarmed by Houthi strike on Turkish ship delivering wheat to Yemen

Updated 16 min 1 sec ago
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US alarmed by Houthi strike on Turkish ship delivering wheat to Yemen

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Friday it was "alarmed" by a Houthi missile strike on a Turkish vessel carrying wheat to Yemen this month and urged the Shi'ite group to work with the United Nations to alleviate Yemenis suffering.
The Turkish-flagged Ince Inebolu bulk carrier was damaged by an explosion on May 10, 70 miles (110 km) off the Red Sea port of Salif where it was due to deliver a 50,000 ton cargo of Russian wheat.
The White House said in a statement the United States was alarmed by the strike and cited reports that the Houthis attempted another attack against an oil tanker in the Red Sea.
"This proves yet again that missile proliferation in Yemen is a real threat to all countries and underscores the need to fully enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216" calling for an end to violence in Yemen.
"Areas under the Houthi control are suffering," the White House said. "The Houthis should engage meaningfully with the United Nations Special Envoy in order to provide a better future for all Yemenis."