Ping Pong Diplomacy, a talk by Nick Griffin at Capital M at 7 pm on Thursday March 20

Ping-Pong Diplomacy is such an engaging and beautifully written book that I deprived my sleep for a few days. Even for a Chinese person who has lived through early 70’s, I learnt a lot about the ins and outs of the game that has changed the world.

come along to the Capital M if you can. the session will be moderated by another friend Jeff Wasserstrom, a famous professor of Chinese history.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Lauren Lavelle

Publication Date: January 7, 2014 Scribner Publicity


T: (212) 632-4952


The Secret History Behind the Game

That Changed the World

byNicholas Griffin

Praise for Nicholas Griffin and Ping-Pong Diplomacy: "This is the amazing drama of how Ping-Pong changed the world. With great research and narrative skills, Griffin brings us behind the scenes of the historic trip by the American team to China in 1971 to tell what really happened and why. Plus he puts it into the context of Ping-Pong’s fascinating history of being more than just a game." —Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs “A remarkable story, well documented and excitingly told” —Booklist “Griffin has found an intriguing story with which to illuminate several important political events of the later 20th century and told it well.” —Publisher’s Weekly “A quirky, thoroughly enjoyable trek through the implausible beginnings of international table tennis and the colorful characters-cum-diplomats behind it…Griffin bites off a huge story but manages to maintain lively interest in the array of personalities involved.” —Kirkus

The spring of 1971 brought the greatest realignment in a generation. After twenty-two years of antagonism, China and the United States suddenly moved towards a détente—achieved not by politicians but by ping pong players. The western press digested the moment as an absurd and happy catalyst for reconciliation and branded it ‘Ping-Pong Diplomacy.’ But for the Chinese, ping pong was always political, a strategic cog in Mao Zedong’s foreign policy. In his new book Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World (Scribner; On-sale 1/7/14),writer Nicholas Griffin illuminates a storied and volatile history of the game most Americans associate with the basements of frat houses or the family garage and, through a cast of eccentric characters, from spies to hippies, ping pong-obsessed generals to atom-bomb survivors, Griffin explores how a neglected sport incited a realignment of world super powers.

While attending the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Griffin was awed by the ping pong spectacle and China’s passion for the game. Wondering where such passion could have originated, Griffin was led back to his birthplace of London, where he began unraveling a peculiar story of Ivor Montagu, the man responsible for the codification and globalization of the modern game of ping pong. Griffin learned that Montagu was the estranged uncle of a family with which Griffin’s own family had spent many of his childhood Christmases. The Montagu family had never met their Uncle Ivor, and the more Griffin dug, the more he began to see why. The son of an English baron, Ivor Montagu was an unlikely communist who actually worked as a spy for Stalin during World War II. Montagu also organized the sport of ping pong—infusing it with his Communist ideals—and introduced it to Mao, whose people, some 300 million of them, would soon play the game with an unmatched fervor.

Thoroughly researched and expertly chronicled, Ping-Pong Diplomacy tells the strange and tragic story of how the game was manipulated at the highest levels; how the Chinese government helped cover up the death of 36 million by holding the World Table Tennis Championships during the Great Famine; how championship players were condemned, tortured, and murdered during the Cultural Revolution; and, finally, how the survivors were reconvened in 1971 and ordered to reach out to their American counterparts.


Nicholas Griffin is a journalist and author of four novels one work of non-fiction. His writing has appeared in The Times (UK), The Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and other publications on topics as disparate as sports and politics, piracy, filmmaking in the Middle East, and the natural sciences. Griffin has written for film and is a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations. He lives in Miami with his wife and two children.

For additional information or to schedule an interview with Nicholas Griffin, contact

Lauren Lavelle / 212-632-4952 / lauren.lavelle

TITLE: Ping-Pong Diplomacy / AUTHOR: Nicholas Griffin / PUBLICATION DATE: January 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4277-3 / PRICE: $26.00 Hardcover

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