I just finished reading your book "Ping Pong Diplomacy". It took me back decades to those brutal, struggling and unforgettable years. I am glad that my experience as a former pro-athlete in China, my book "One in a Billion - Journey toward Freedom" and "My Way" (the Youtube program of NTDTV, by Fiona Zhao, the producer) all contributed to your accurate recount of the important historical moments and events in China and in the world at the time. I am truly grateful to you for returning history to its original form, not by political propaganda, but by a person's conscience and drive to seek truth. I thank you.
Your book is a fascinating read, since I have experienced all "sports as political tool" in China. Still many facts astonished me:
I didn't know Jiang Qing, Mao's wife, has a foot with six toes. I know the factional struggles in the NSAC (National Sports and Athletics Commission) and the Ping Pong teams. But you provided more details in the tragedies and atrocities.
I now realized when I was forced back to Beijing from Guangzhou Military District in 1971, I was indeed with the Ping Pong team players on the same plane from the World Championships in Japan. I now remember Xi Enting, Liang Geliang and some women players with me on the same plane. They were signing autographs for some fans. The tourists looked like they were either from Japanese or Hong Kong. When you interviewed me over the phone, I couldn't remember the players' names. NSAC General Secretary Song Zhong invited me to the Oriental Hotel to persuade me back to Beijing, after I escaped from Beijing. The talk lasted more than one hour. I wonder why he spent so much time with me. Did I have any choice?
As I read through the book, I learned that Zhuang Zedong died in 2013. Though I didn't have personal relationship with him, I pitied him for his life choices. When he was the head of NSAC, he came to talk with us once. The August 1st Basketball team was at a pre-game banquet in a Beijing hotel. I forgot against which third world team we would play (either North Korea or Egypt) the next day. Zhuang came to reiterate the official political line to us - Friendship First, meaning we could not win by too many points. I could still see him in a very awkward manner when he talked as we towered above him. The last time I heard about him was a few years ago, when he took his Japanese wife touring Shenzhen where an old friend of mine who became a sports bureaucrat in Shenzhen met him. The friend also spoke of him with a deep pity. Zhuang indeed was a tragic figure in a political and morally perverse episode in Chinese history. He was abused by many and an abuser to many. In the end, he had no idea what truly happened to him.
When I wrote my book/my memoir (One in a Billion - Journey toward Freedom), I indeed was motivated to recount that part of history in some memorable and accurate fashion. I realized if I didn't recount that part of history, the truth would be lost for no one had the courage and mindset to do so. Most Chinese refuse to write memoirs even today due to their mindset, for reasons of fear of offending someone and the authority, therefore suffering the consequences. Thus many episodes in the Chinese history, especially in China's sports history, are either missing or distorted by official/governmental propaganda. True history is written and recorded by conscientious individuals like you and me, not by collectives and the authority by government. I am satisfied that you wrote this book with your conscience and the best of your ability as a writer.
Keep in touch and please accept my sincere gratefulness. Kai Chen