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Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Ivor Montagu and the Astonishing Story Behind the Game That Changed the World

It was one of the most significant developments of the post-war era: China finally abandoning its close relationship with the Soviet Union to begin detente with the USA. Astonishingly, the man who helped make it happen was a British aristocrat, Ivor Montagu, a Soviet spy who knew Stalin and dined with Trotsky. Even more remarkably, the means to this rapprochement was table tennis, a sport loved by both Chairman Mao and Montagu. For years, Montagu had lived a dual life, working to spread communism and also table tennis around the world. Surprisingly, the two strands of his career would come together in an event of global significance.
Nicholas Griffin weaves a compelling story to reveal the background to the famous occasion in 1971, when the USA's Glenn Cowan, a 19-year-old hippie, befriended China's world champion Zhuang Zedong, who was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution. Within days, the Americans would be playing the Chinese in front of 18,000 fans in Beijing, with the whole world watching. It was the beginning of a thaw in Sino-US relations that forced the Soviets into a crippling arms race that acted as a catalyst to pressuring them into errors that would draw the Cold War to an end. Sometimes sport truly can have the biggest consequences.
  • Simon & Schuster UK | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780857207371 | 
  • January 2014
List Price £10.99

Video

Nicholas Griffin: What Are You Reading?

Nicholas Griffin, author of Ping-Pong Diplomacy, shares his fiction and non-fiction reading list.

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About the Author

Nicholas Griffin
Photograph by Adriana Cisneros

Nicholas Griffin

Born in London and educated at Eton, where his father's best friend was Ivor Montagu's nephew, Nicholas Griffin is the author of four novels and one non-fiction book, as well as having written for various newspapers including The Times and the Financial Times. He now lives in Miami with his family and was a Term Member on the Council on Foreign Relations.

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