The “ping-pong” diplomacy during the Nixon presidency encompassed the pivotal series of diplomatic events that successfully prompted an about-face in Sino-American politics as well as ripple effects spanning across the globe. Indeed, the resulting historic opening of relations between the United States and China carried enormously powerful overtones for the futures of both countries that persist to the present day. It would be impossible to appreciate the significance of the ping-pong diplomacy without first understanding the decades of hostility between China and the United States that preceded it.
After the shocking 1949 Communist Revolution in China, the United States refused to recognize the Communist People’s Republic and instead deemed the nationalist Republic of China (Taiwan) as the sole legitimate government of China. This pivotal point of discrepancy would be the primary dividing force up to and through the Nixon talks. In 1950, the United States withdrew all official personnel from China; no US official would return to China on a permanent basis until May of 1973. Even then, tensions continued to grow. As a consequence of China’s direct involvement in the Korean War, the US government imposed a complete trade embargo with the People’s Republic of China and banned travel by Americans to China.