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Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  86 ratings  ·  15 reviews
THE SPRING OF 1971 heralded the greatest geopolitical realignment in a generation. After twenty-two years of antagonism, China and the United States suddenly moved toward a détente—achieved not by politicians but by Ping-Pong players. The Western press delighted in the absurdity of the moment and branded it “Ping-Pong Diplomacy.” But ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Scribner (first published January 2nd 2014)
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Chris Aylott
China shows up so often in business and cultural headlines these days that it's hard to remember how isolated it was a few decades ago. That's what makes it so interesting to take a trip back to the sixties and seventies with Nicholas Griffin, who does an able job of showing what conditions were like how China's ping-pong team was a key part of its reconnection with the world.

Griffin goes quite a bit further, in fact, exploring the origins of competitive ping-pong and how it was essentially a Co
...more
Margaret Sankey
In the last account of Operation Mincemeat I read, I noticed a throwaway line about MI-5's Ewan Montagu's Communist brother Ivor, who was also a Soviet spy and Ping-Pong mastermind. Griffin's book recounts how that turned out to be pretty important. Montagu's Jewish, Communist, Aristocratic, Intelligentsia credentials made him welcome in 1930s Russia, where Stalin was okay with ping pong as an excuse to cultivate a spy. WWII saw ping pong balls hoarded by the RAF as flotation aids, and sent out ...more
Todd Stockslager
Review title: Little white ball, big Red game
If you have a chance to go to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH, be sure to stop by the museum there, and take special notice of the display of the rail car mounted Minuteman nuclear missile. When I saw this a decade or so ago I was jarred to realize that within my adult lifetime this was a real proposal for shuttling armed nuclear warheads around the country's railroad racks and sidings to keep the equivalent Soviet missile launchers gues
...more
W. Derek Atkins
In this book that traces the history of ping pong, Nicholas Griffin gives us a fascinating peek behind the curtain at some of the 20th century's great rivals. Who knew that a privileged Briton would revive a game for the purpose of advancing Communism throughout the world? And who knew that a team of nobodies would end up opening the door to a massive geopolitical transformation? And yet, Nicholas Griffin pulls no punches, refusing to whitewash the horrors of Communist misrule, nor glossing over ...more
Adriana
Great read on the amazing story about how and English double agent introduced Mao to ping pong and how Mao used the game to change world politics. It's reads like a historical novel ,buts it's non fiction. An absolutely fascinating story that hasn't been told in this way. A Great first read for the year. I highly recommend it.
Vika Ryabova
Пинг-понговая дипломатия – это устоявшийся термин для событий, приведших к началу официального диалога между Китаем и США и потеплению отношений между странами. Книга – документальное произведение о том, как все это начиналось и развивалось, но читается как увлекательный роман, особенно первые процентов 70, когда автор рассказывает об Айворе Монтегю. Автор отлично выписывает портреты героев, рассказывает, что лежало за их поступками.

Мне лично было очень интересно – о многом я не знала, что-то «
...more
Bonnie_blu
This is an interesting and complex analysis of the rise of ping pong (table tennis) in the West and its promotion in the East by an English traitor / spy for the Soviets. Griffin traces the history of ping pong and how Ivor Montagu, a British noble, fell in love with the game. He also became a dedicated Communist and staunch follower of Stalin. Montagu used the game, his position, and his family and friends to betray Britain and advance the Soviet cause. Stalin recognized the power of sport on t ...more
Mike
A Good read and the writing was good. The author wrote about the "behind the curtain" events and personalities that contributed to the US and China initial diplomatic interactions in 1971. Mr. Griffin did a good job of describing the personalities and how they fit into these events without being super long and laborious. However it never ceases to amaze me how people from the west, such as Mr. Montague, who is from a high ranking English family and well educated, could fall in love with communis ...more
Matthew Purvis
An interesting read but is not really a book about Montagu, as the title would suggest. You are left with more question than answers about him as only the first 40 pages deal with his life. Perhaps there is little primary evidence to tell us more. The rest of the book gives an account of ping-pong diplomacy and I liked the final chapters setting out what happened to Glen Cowan and Zhuang Zedong.
Sunil
A good recounting of how sport diplomacy was used to thaw relationships between US and China. Notable for a detailed profile of the Chinese leadership and their style of working.
Tom
I kept waiting for this narrative to get really good. The history of table tennis was interesting enough. The travails of top Chinese table tennis stars and their interactions with Chairman Mao, Zhou Enlai, and top CCP brass during turbulent times also made for a good read. But, when the book reaches its supposed climax, the use of ping pong players to facilitate the Washington-Beijing thaw of the early 70s, the action didn't actually pick up. It just never made the jump from good to very good.
Alex Kintzer
The writing was entertaining but it lacked action and narrative. It was an interesting history of the sport and Griffin is definitely well researched, but the book never enveloped me. Unique idea but not written as a page-turner.
Cheryl
I thought it was interesting but did start to find it a bit heavy-going about half way through. It's not one that will keep you up half the night turning the pages but it does offer an enlightening look at how something so simple as an parlour game could (and did) end up shaping the modern world as we know it today.

(full review on my blog : http://madhousefamilyreviews.blogspot...)
Dave Lawlor
Easy and interesting to read
Alice
Read as research for a work of fiction, but stranger than anything I could dream up, this is the story of table tennis in China and the chain of events and circumstances that led from Ivor Montagu, English eccentric, Communist, spy and ping-pong champion, to the history-making events of 1971 when the US table tennis team was invited behind the Bamboo Curtain.
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Nicholas was a sales rep for Little, Brown in 1990. He researched this first novel by spending a month sailing on a replica 18th Century tall ship in the Caribbean. The result is total authenticity.
More about Nicholas Griffin...
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