For the first time in history, China and the United States recently teamed up for the mixed doubles event at the finals of the World Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Diplomacy. ping-pong ”. Once again, the two countries come together thanks to table tennis. This is very encouraging for many people, including Justin O’Jack, an American who has lived in China for most of the past 25 years. “I am very happy to see athletes from the United States and China playing together on the same team,” he said enthusiastically. “In addition, in the spirit of continued friendship between our two countries, this is the first time that the World Table Tennis Championships have been hosted by an American city. I only wish to be there to watch the games in person.

Justin and his daughter play table tennis every week.

Fall in love with ping pong

Justin, a son-in-law from Shanghai, was among the few American expats in Shanghai invited to participate in the ping-pong friendship game in April this year, teaming up with Chinese students from Shanghai Sports University and becoming the next generation to participate in the “Ping-pong Diplomacy”. In less than a month, he went from being a complete novice to learning all the basics of table tennis from his Chinese trainer and partner. Having made a lot of progress, he quickly fell in love with the sport.

Justin recalled enthusiastically on match day, when World Champion Wang Liqin demonstrated a pairs exercise on the spot right in front of him. Looking at Wang, who is 1.85 meters (6’1 “) tall, Justin realized that tall people like him have a competitive advantage when playing table tennis, which he still has. more inspired to learn this sport.

Justin and his Chinese partner at the Friendship ping-pong match in Shanghai (April 10, 2021)

During an interview in April, Justin said he wanted a similar event to take place in the United States to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Ping Pong Diplomacy”, and now his wish has come true in of the WTTC final.

To learn table tennis, Justin made his first investment in April: buying a decent paddle. After the friendship game, he gave his 10-year-old daughter the paddle. Now the father and daughter play together every week.

Their trainer, Vito Guan, is a student at China Table Tennis College at Shanghai Sports University. “People from different countries and cultures can really connect through sport,” he said. “We have gained a better understanding of each other’s culture and customs through the process of learning table tennis. We have developed more topics of mutual interest, and both are very happy with the exchange, ”said Vito. While appreciating the Americans’ punctuality and willingness to learn, he also hopes he can show the hospitality and conscience of the Chinese people to their international friends. He believes that in the long run, this type of exchange can play a unique role in promoting friendship between countries.

Justin’s daughter learns table tennis from her Chinese trainer, Vito Guan.

Promote Sino-American mutual understanding

On April 10, 1971, the United States table tennis team visited China, opening the doors to Sino-American relations. 50 years later, it is more important than ever to look back and commemorate the legacy of “ping-pong diplomacy”, especially given the current bilateral relationship between the two countries, said Justin, who is engaged in Sino-American educational exchanges.

Justin, from California, explained how he and his wife, who is from Shanghai, are from different countries and have different cultural and educational backgrounds, but they strive to achieve common goals by raising their child and making what is best for their family. . Likewise, China and the United States share a world and face common challenges, such as climate change, so why not learn from each other’s strengths and work together to achieve mutually beneficial results?

Justin also educates his daughter to think with an international mindset. “When it comes to her cultural identity, I always try to remind her that she is not half Chinese and half American, but both Chinese and American. She has the best of both worlds, ”he said. Once, as the family watched a China-USA game on TV, he asked which team they hoped to win. Without hesitation, the little girl said, “I encourage them both!” Who wins and who loses is not necessarily important to a child. This very simple truth is perhaps worth pondering.

Justin, in his capacity as chief representative of the University of Virginia (AVU) in China, has been extremely busy since last year. As he explained, after the outbreak of the pandemic, many international students from China were unable to travel to the United States to study, in part due to visa restrictions. Thanks to the efforts of Justin and his team – and their counterparts at Chinese universities – these Chinese students were allowed to begin their studies at Peking University and Fudan University, two very prestigious universities in China, in as part of a credit transfer mechanism between institutions. . “The students were really excited because Peking University and Fudan University are among their dream schools in China,” Justin said, noting that this was a good example of a win-win cooperation. winner.

AVU freshmen during their fall 2020 term at Fudan University

AVU freshmen during their spring term 2021 at Peking University

During the AVU presentation, Justin mentioned that the university has an excellent intramural table tennis club, which he hopes could have the opportunity to visit China to play ping-pong. pong with Chinese students in the future.

(Photos provided by Justin O’Jack)