They are not common diplomatic tools:several paddles, a few ping pong balls and some table tennis players from China and the United States.
But the fact that nine American table tennis players were invited to Beijing for exhibition games with Chinese players in April 1971 did break the ice between the two nations.
Thirty-eight years after those historic games, players from the two nations lined up for a rematch in the Chinese capital on Wednesday.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya (8th L) and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte (6th L) pose for a group photo during the Friendship Ping-pong Match marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the China-U.S. diplomatic relations, at the State General Administration of Sport in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 7, 2009. In 1971, a U.S. ping-pong team visited China after years of estrangement and antagonism between the two countries, opening the door for the China-U.S. people-to-people contacts. [Rao Aimin／Xinhua]
First came the 1971 U.S. team's youngest member, Judy Hoarfrost.
"When I first came to China in 1971, I didn't know the significance at first. As we went to China right away after the invitation, so we didn't have chance to really learn until we left China," Hoarfrost told Xinhua while warming up for a match with a veteran Chinese player, Qi Baoxiang.
The invitation from China came during the 31st World Championships in Nagoya, Japan where the Chinese team was competing for the first time in two years.
Just two days later, nine U.S. team members crossed into the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong, becoming the first group of Americans to visit the Chinese mainland since 1949.
"My picture with Premier Zhou Enlai was on the front page of all the newspapers around the world. When I went back, everybody was so interested.I was only 15 years old, but they had all questions for me like I knew something special about China. Just because I had been there," Hoarfrost recalled.