The World: The Ping Heard Round the World

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Americans, wearing blue uniforms, marched in with the red-togged Chinese team. A banner announced: WELCOME TO THE TABLE TENNIS TEAM FROM THE UNITED STATES. At a loss over how to reciprocate, Glenn Cowan, clad in tie-dyed purple bellbottoms, broke into a sort of frug to the strains of a somewhat unfamiliar tune: Sailing the Seas Depends on the Helmsman, Making Revolution Depends on Mao Tse-tung's Thought.

As the Americans learned, table tennis has a ritual all its own in China. First, the two teams marched onto the floor and intertwined hands, then they marched off again. But where were the tables? Suddenly, 50 or so Chinese men, women and children dressed in red jump suits danced onto the floor in time to music, carrying the tables and green barrier boards to stop stray Ping Pong balls. Two games were played at a time, and Cowan, who wore a red headband to keep back his hair, was an obvious favorite of the crowd. "We had the impression the Chinese were trying hard not to embarrass us by lopsided scores," said Tim Boggan. They did not. The Chinese players won the men's games 5-3 and the women's 5-4. Afterward, the opponents exchanged gifts—matching pen and letter-opener sets for the Chinese, and "Double Happiness" table tennis paddles and balls for the Americans —and walked off hand in hand.

As it turned out, the table tennis match was not the main event at all, but only the warm-up for the real purpose of the visit: the meeting with Chou Enlai next day in the huge, red-carpeted reception room of the Great Hall of the People. The day started out with a visit to the Summer Palace, the 19th century pleasure pavilion of the Manchu Emperors, and a tour of the Great Hall itself, which, one of the group remarked, resembles New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Instant Tailors

Finally, the group was ushered into the reception room and seated in a circle at little desks to await the Premier's entry. After his formal greeting—and his announcement of a "new page" in Sino-American relations—Chou, for an unexpected If hours, became the jovial host. He offered an old Chinese saying: "What joy it is to bring friends from afar." He added: "In the past, a lot of American friends have been in China. You have made a start here in bringing more friends." Did that mean that Peking would now admit American newsmen? Yes, replied Chou, "but they can't all come at once. They will have to come in batches."

Then Cowan piped up. What did the Premier of China think of the U.S. hippie movement? Replied Chou, the onetime revolutionist: "Perhaps youth is dissatisfied with the present situation. Youth wants to seek out the truth, and out of this search various forms of change are bound to come forth. Thus this is a kind of transitional period."

On their last evening in the capital, the group was treated to an opera symbolizing the triumph of Communism over capitalism, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. The next day was clear, fortunately for their schedule, since China's civil aircraft fly only in fair weather. The group enplaned for Shanghai. There the team played another exhibition match, dined on smoked duck and rice wine—a change from the ubiquitous, brightly colored orange "juice" —and became dedicated tourists. They were shown a

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