Get the key ideas from

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World

By Nicholas Griffin
16-minute read
Audio available
Ping-Pong Diplomacy by Nicholas Griffin

Ping-Pong Diplomacy (2014) is the tale of how China and the United States ended two decades of diplomatic silence and antagonism. This breakthrough did not originate in embassies or politicians’ offices. Instead, it began at the ping-pong table. These blinks show how a sport shaped by a communist-leaning aristocrat changed politics forever. 

  • Those with an eye for unusual history
  • People who are interested in ping-pong and politics
  • Sports fans interested in how their passion can change the world

Nicholas Griffin is a novelist and journalist. He has written for The Times, the Financial Times, and Foreign Policy. His published books include four novels and The Year of Dangerous Days, a history of the year 1980 in Miami.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
4,500+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World

By Nicholas Griffin
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Ping-Pong Diplomacy by Nicholas Griffin
Synopsis

Ping-Pong Diplomacy (2014) is the tale of how China and the United States ended two decades of diplomatic silence and antagonism. This breakthrough did not originate in embassies or politicians’ offices. Instead, it began at the ping-pong table. These blinks show how a sport shaped by a communist-leaning aristocrat changed politics forever. 

Key idea 1 of 10

Young, aristocratic Ivor Montagu became an enthusiast for ping-pong and socialism.

Ivor Montagu was the man who changed ping-pong. More than 100 years ago, he took this quaint pastime of English aristocrats from stately homes to international stadiums. Soon enough, ping-pong would play a major role in international politics.

Montagu was born into the grandeur of one of England's richest families. As a boy, he would play in the garden of 10 Downing Street, the British prime minister’s residence. He remembered standing at his nursery window as he waited for the arrival of his mother’s good friend, the future Queen. 

Ivor Montagu was, then, a true English aristocrat – and, like other members of his class, he was expected to embrace sports. The boy’s father was an excellent shot and keen cricketer; his older brother Stewart was a brilliant rugby player. Montagu himself was not the sporting type. But there was one exception. Ivor loved ping-pong.

The key message here is: Young, aristocratic Ivor Montagu became an enthusiast for ping-pong and socialism. 

When Montagu was six, he persuaded his father to buy a table. From that moment on, he’d been playing with great enthusiasm. 

At the time, ping-pong was little more than a fad. The British, who’d spread soccer, rugby, and cricket across the world, saw it as just a type of after-dinner amusement. Other sports developed infrastructure that would support their growth. There were teams, stadiums, rulebooks. But ping-pong remained incoherent and rule-less. Even so, Ivor Montagu loved the game. 

And he had another passion – one he discovered on his walk to London’s elite Westminster School. One day, he noticed a pamphlet entitled “Socialism for Millionaires.” It was sitting in a window of London’s Fabian Society, and Montagu thought the brochure might have been written just for him.

Soon, the young aristocrat declared himself a socialist. He worked with the Labour party and even helped to store copies of one of Lenin’s books. His socialism was eventually discovered when the butler found a copy of a pro-Communist speech Ivor had drafted. The schoolboy’s aristocratic parents were appalled, relations in the family cooled, and Montagu was only too happy to escape to Cambridge University. 

The time he spent there only made his twin passions deeper. 

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Learn more, live more

Sign up now to learn and grow every day with the key ideas from top nonfiction and podcasts in 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.