Friendship is solidarity
The Chinese ping-pong team visits Africa in 1962
in Sport and diplomacy
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A decade before official 'ping-pong diplomacy', leaders in the People's Republic of China (PRC) used sports delegation visits to cultivate diplomatic relations with recently decolonised nations. In the early 1960s, the Sino-Soviet split, the rise of various Afro-Asian movements and decolonisation in Africa led to intense Sino-Soviet competition for socialist influence in the Third World. Officially presented to the Chinese public as ‘friendly’ sports exchanges, PRC leaders sought to expand their influence and prove Chinese socialism under Mao as an alternative (and superior) model to that of the Soviet Union. The chapter, based primarily on declassified official reports from Chinese archives, begins with the first major PRC sports delegation sent to Africa in 1962, a contingent of well-known ping-pong athletes. The visit helped Chinese leaders gather knowledge on new allies, officially express shared historical and political solidarities against colonialism and imperialism, and, through sport, demonstrate China's achievements through socialism. These visits sought to build diplomatic ties while promoting and shoring up support – foreign as well as domestic – for a Chinese brand of socialism that professed an alternative, non-Soviet path to socialist modernity.

Sport and diplomacy

Games within games

Editor: J. Simon Rofe


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