BEIJING: China and the United States will team up for the mixed doubles event at the World Table Tennis Championships finals this month on the 50th anniversary of "ping pong diplomacy", the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) said on Monday (Nov 22).
China's Lin Gaoyuan will play with American Lily Zhang while Wang Manyu will join forces with Kanak Jha in the mixed doubles at the tournament this week, the sport's governing body said.
The two American-Chinese pairings will "build on the China-US friendship" and open "a new chapter of 'ping pong diplomacy' in this new era", Chinese Table Tennis Association president Liu Guoliang said in a statement.
The ITTF declared that "history will be made in Houston" in the Nov 23 to 29 event.
"Ping pong diplomacy" refers to a series of friendly matches between Chinese and American teams in 1971 which eventually paved the way for formal diplomatic relations between Washington and an isolated Beijing.
The 50th anniversary comes amid tense relations between the two countries, with the world's top two economies at loggerheads over a number of issues, including the fate of China's Uyghur minority and a clampdown in Hong Kong.
But Chinese officials and state media have hailed the anniversary as a largely positive opportunity to celebrate ping-pong diplomacy's "wonderful legacy".
"I'm really happy to be partnering with Lily Zhang for the mixed doubles event," Lin said. "She's the top table tennis player in the US I'm not China's top player yet, but our goal is to come out on top for this event.
"The biggest advantage about pairing with her is that she speaks Mandarin. I hope we can get into the groove soon, develop good chemistry and work hard towards a great performance."