Paddles celebrate “ping-pong diplomacy” between China and the U.S. in 1971. (AP)

Paddles celebrate “ping-pong diplomacy” between China and the U.S. in 1971. (AP)

Then-Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin (left), cuddles a gift from Bulgaria’s leader in 2010.

Then-Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin (left), cuddles a gift from Bulgaria’s leader in 2010.

Mali gave France a crabby camel. (AP)

Mali gave France a crabby camel. (AP)

The White House Oval Office’s Resolute Desk was a gift from England. (AP)

The White House Oval Office’s Resolute Desk was a gift from England. (AP)

To show thanks for their help in World War 2, the Netherlands gives Canada 20,000 tulip bulbs each year. (AP)

To show thanks for their help in World War 2, the Netherlands gives Canada 20,000 tulip bulbs each year. (AP)

Ping Pong Diplomacy (and More)

Posted: September 1, 2017

It can be really hard to make peace with another country. People from other places think differently from you. They probably don’t even speak your native language. So how would you say “Let’s be friends”? Would you . . .

. . . carry a message stick? Even societies without national governments need diplomacy. Long ago, tribes needed to plan out marriages. They had to decide: “How will we trade? What are the rules for hunting?” Messengers between tribes were given lots of respect. They carried some object, such as a message stick, to show their purpose. When they showed up, people held carefully-designed ceremonies to celebrate their arrival. Message sticks are still used in some parts of Australia. The symbols carved or painted on the sticks tell what tribe the carrier comes from. They show that the message they carry is true.

. . . call a ping-pong match? Just before China gifted the United States with pandas in 1972, Chinese officials invited a U.S. table tennis (ping-pong) team into China for a visit. That was a huge surprise! No American had gotten a glimpse behind the “bamboo curtain” (China’s borders) since 1949.  The invitation was a clue. It showed that China’s loyalties might be changing.

. . . give weird gifts? Colombia gave the United States a silver figure of an oversized coffee bean. Bulgaria gave Russia a 10-week-old Bulgarian shepherd puppy. The Soviet Union gave North Korea a bulletproof limousine. Mali gave France two camels. The first camel was crabby, and was eaten in a stew! Mali sent a new one to replace it