It wasn’t until 1921, with the creation of a cultural department in the German Foreign Office, that cultural diplomacy became a state enterprise.
Through cultural exports, the German government hoped to improve its image abroad; the United States soon followed suit by sending jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie on tour.
Zhuang initially got in trouble for failing to obey another of Mao’s edicts: do not to talk to the Americans. government waived government regulations against travel to the Communist nation for the team – although some in the U. government wanted to bar Cowan, fearing the drug-using “hippie opportunist” (as he had been described by one disgruntled U. government official) would not make a good impression.
Eventually (and the details vary on how) the Chinese extended an invitation to the American team, and Mao commented that Zhuang was good at both ping pong and diplomacy. But the American delegation – team members, as well as officials, spouse and press – were all warmly received, Cowan included.
No sports diplomacy since has rivaled the 1971 table tennis tour for attention garnered or impact credited. Sometimes it signals an increasing openness on the part of one or another of the countries, such as the 1989 visit to the United States of the Soviet national baseball team.
In Atlanta, they visited the regionally famous Stone Mountain Park, where they could enjoy magnificent vistas and entertainment, as well as Coca Cola World, and the Atlanta Aquarium.Between the individual traveler and the “cultural propaganda” funded by governments lie privately funded initiatives in art and sports, such as the New York Philharmonic’s trip to the DPRK in February of this year and the NBA-hosted U.S.-Iranian Basketball games taking place this summer.The power of cultural exchange to build bridges between two countries is epitomized by “Ping Pong Diplomacy.” American athlete Glenn Cowan, having missed his bus after a practice session at the 1971 World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan, stumbled onto the Chinese team’s bus.The 19-year-old Cowie was startled to find himself facing a bus full of bewildered Chinese athletes.