Two mixed doubles pairings will be formed of both American and Chinese players at the World Table Tennis Championships ©Getty Images

China and the United States will join forces in the mixed doubles competition at this week’s World Table Tennis Championships in Houston, marking the 50th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy.

Two mixed doubles pairings will be formed of both American and Chinese players in a move described as a "landmark moment" for the sport by International Table Tennis Federation deputy president Khalil Al-Mohannadi.

Lin Gaoyuan and Wang Manyu of China will team up with Lily Zhang and Kanak Jha of the US respectively when competition gets underway in the American city tomorrow.

The move was announced, which was approved by the ITTF Executive Committee, at the Peace Through Sport Dinner, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Ping Pong Diplomacy.

Christopher Nixon Cox and Neil Bush, respectively grandson of President Richard Nixon and son of President George Bush, were present at the dinner along with representatives from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the US and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) and the US Table Tennis Association (USATT) together submitted the request to allow China-US pairs to compete to the ITTF.

"I fully support this initiative, and I am proud the ITTF was able to provide the platform for these two unified China-USA pairs," said Al-Mohannadi.

"This is a landmark moment in our sport history.

"It is fitting that it happened in Houston, set to become the first-ever American city to host of the World Championships, whilst our sport has a huge prominence in China. 

"I wish everyone a wonderful time in Houston."

China's Lin Gaoyuan will pair with American Lily Zhang in Houston ©Getty Images
China's Lin Gaoyuan will pair with American Lily Zhang in Houston ©Getty Images

The ITTF has described the decision as a "new chapter" in the Ping Pong Diplomacy which fostered relationships between China and the US.

In 1971, an American delegation was invited to play a series of friendly matches in the People’s Republic of China as a means of overcoming the diplomatic and political gulf that then existed between the two nations.

"We are really excited that the opportunity has materialised for China and the US to play a mixed doubles event in Houston," said Virginia Sung, chief executive of the USATT.

"Fifty years ago, a small exchange between players from the Chinese Table Tennis Association and USA Table Tennis has proven to be a moment of lasting significance.

"As it did so many years ago, sport is once again showing us the power of unity, and ping pong is once again changing the course of history.

"USATT is pleased to thank the ITTF, CTTA and Houston Sports Authority for working together to continue the efforts of Ping Pong Diplomacy during such a momentous occasion."

CCTA President Liu Guoliang, who is also chair of the World Table Tennis Council, added: "We have been thinking about how we can build on the China-US friendship kickstarted by our predecessors 50 years ago, and further enhance this relationship through sports events, sports activities and community events.

"On this basis, the CTTA alongside USA Table Tennis proposed to ITTF to have Chinese and American players paired up for mixed doubles – so that these athletes, who are friends with each other, can work together in the competition; so that fans from both countries can cheer them on, opening a new chapter of Ping Pong Diplomacy in this new era."

The ITTF said Ping Pong Diplomacy will be the theme of World Table Tennis Day on April 6 in 2022.

"Once again, we are all witnessing the unique power of sport and how table tennis can create dialogues and foster mutual understanding," added Steve Dainton, chief executive of the ITTF.

"This will inspire us to deliver an extraordinary and historical championships and to encourage the dreams, hopes and aspirations of not only the entire table tennis community but also the next generation worldwide."

The World Championships are scheduled to run from tomorrow until November 29.