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April 14, 1971

[Zhou Enlai's] Conversation with the U.S. Table Tennis Delegation

Premier Zhou Enlai ("Zhou" in further text): Mr. Manager, this is your first visit to China, isn't it?


Graham Steenhoven ("Steenhoven" in further text): Yes, it is. This is the first time any member of our delegation has been to China.


Zhou: You are not very familiar with China, aren't you?


Steenhoven: No, I am not. I know nothing about China. But I am well aware of your hospitality.


Zhou: There is an old adage in China: "Guests from a far away land are always a pleasure to meet."


Steenhoven: We have a similar proverb, and our Chinese friends are always welcome in the United States.


Zhou: Yes, I know Mr. Roderick[1] well, he has been to China and I know some American journalists who are interested in visiting China. It is difficult to invite them all at once, but we could invite them in groups.


Steenhoven: It is a great pleasure to accept your invitation for our journalists.


Zhou: They can visit us just like you are doing.


Steenhoven: We are very happy about these plans. Their visit will let us get to know each other even better.


Zhou: But it is not only the American journalists who are welcome here. Canadian, British, and journalists from other countries are here today. Many American friends have been to China before, and I am sure there will be more to come from now on.


Steenhoven: If the Americans who come to China in the future are treated as kindly as we are and get to meet such wonderful Chinese friends as we do, there will be more willing to visit China. We wish our Chinese friends a good time in visiting the United States too.


Zhou: I hope that both the Chinese and the American people will be able to pay friendly visits to each other often from now on.


Steenhoven: We are very glad to hear this. We hope we could start visiting each other as soon as possible.


Zhou: I hope so too.


Steenhoven: We are looking forward to meeting you in the States.


Zhou: Thank you. I'm sorry to hear that it was windy when you visited the Summer Palace today. We hoped it wouldn't be.


Steenhoven: Nobody complained because we get the same kind of weather in the States plus we were told to bring our coats, which was a very good advice.


Zhou: I hope you will not get a cold.


Steenhoven: It would be bad to get a cold.


Zhou: Take care.


Steenhoven: You take care too.


Zhou: Thank you. The players played very well yesterday.


Steenhoven: They did their best. We learned a lot from the Chinese players at the same time. It was very helpful. The Chinese players spent hours to train our young athletes. They were very friendly and polite.


Zhou: Were they?


Steenhoven: Yes, absolutely.


Zhou: You bet.


Steenhoven: Wherever we went, our hosts would always ask us whether we had any critical comments or suggestions. Eventually, I found something to criticize.


Zhou: What was it?


Steenhoven: That you always fed us too much.


Zhou: You do not have to eat everything.


Steenhoven: For example, one day we thought that what was an appetizer was an entree, but we had to eat about ten courses right after that.


Zhou: Next time the hosts should let you know beforehand and it should be clearly written on the menu. The dishes which come first are the appetizers, those that come after are the main dishes.


Steenhoven: Although we had menus, we were too preoccupied with eating to look at them.


Zhou: I see.


Tim Boggan: My name is Tim Boggan, vice president of American Table Tennis Association. I would like to say that I liked the painting of beautiful rivers and mountains I saw in our hotel.


Zhou: Thank you.


Dick Miles: I am Dick Miles, a journalist with Sports Illustrated. I am here as a journalist and as a member of the American delegation formally invited by the Chinese government. Thank you for your invitation.


Zhou: Yes, you are a member of this delegation.


Jack Howard: (Howard in further text): I am Jack Howard, secretary of American Table Tennis team. I hope Chinese team get a chance to visit the States in the near future, so we could return your hospitality and play some table tennis in the States.


Zhou: That is fine. But I guess, it is up to your manager to decide. Do you think so?


Howard: Yes, I think so. Zhou: Does Mr. Manager agree with me?


Steenhoven: Yes, I agree. Zhou: Do you have any further questions?


Glenn Cowen ("Cowen" in further text) Would you mind if l ask your opinion about the American "hippies" movement?


Zhou: I don't know much about this movement but as far as my personal limited opinion goes, I think, young people throughout the world may be dissatisfied with the current situation and try to find the truth. There are many things that indicate changes in young people's minds. But those things wouldn't always be mature and unaltered. Because the way of finding the truth must always be tested by practice, it is OK when people are young. When we were young we did similar things, so I can understand how young people feel; they are just curious. We noticed that young people from other countries, have the same style as American hippies. For example, I have met long-haired young people from Britain and Japan.


Cowen: You are right. Young people do take the style, which expresses the changes of their minds seriously. "Hippies" movement is a kind of new idea, few people know much about it.


Zhou: In the development of human history, as the law of nature, a universal truth will always be acknowledged by human beings at last. It is good for young people to try new things. But they have to learn them from their own experience. Also, only when an idea is shared by the majority of human beings, can it help humanity's development and prosperity. This is all I meant to say.


Cowen: Thank you.


Zhou: One more point. If a new idea is proven incorrect by practice, it must be corrected. We always have to insist on right ideas and correct the wrong ones. I suggest this to you as a friend.


Cowen: We also believe that progress only comes from change and spiritual development.


Zhou: Spirit could not improve progress until it changes to physical power and is supported by the majority of people. This is a philosophical rule.


Cowen: Thank you.


Zhou: There are philosophical rules in table tennis, too. You play very well.


Cowen: I hope I could play better in the future.


Zhou: Good luck.


Cowen: Thank you.


Zhou: Talking about philosophy, Chairman Mao said, "come from the masses and go into the masses (new ideas should come from the people, be tested by and serve the people)." This is our practical motto and theoretical guideline.

I hope you give the Chinese people's best wishes to the American people. Although our contacts have been suspended for a long time, China had frequent contacts with the United States before. Your visit has just opened the door for a friendly Sino-American relationship. We believe that the majority in both countries will support this friendly relationship. Mr. Roderick, you opened the door.


John Roderick: Thank you. First of all, I appreciate your invitation for American journalists which enabled American journalists to eventually come to visit China again after a long hiatus. I agree with what you said. We did open a door for the new Sino-American relations. And our relations could become even better if both peoples could understand each other better. I hope our reports would further improve the Sino-American relations.


Zhou: Thank you.


[1] John Roderick was then an AP reporter in Tokyo, whom Zhou met in the 1940s.

Zhou Enlai speaks with President of the U.S. Table Tennis Association, Graham Steenhoven, after the 31st annual World Table Tennis Championships. Steenhoven thanks Premier Zhou for inviting the U.S. ping-pong team and U.S. journalists to China. U.S. journalists ask Zhou to comment on the American hippie movement. Steenhoven extends an invitation to the Chinese ping-pong team to visit the U.S.


Document Information


Zhou Enlai Waijiao wenxuan [Selected Diplomatic Papers of Zhou Enlai] (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian, 1990), pp. 469-475. Translated by Gao Bei. Originally included in Chen Jian, ed., “Chinese Materials on the Sino-American Rapprochement (1969-1972)” (unpublished collection, February 2002)


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