U.S. should try `golf diplomacy'

April 12, 2001|By David M. Anderson

WASHINGTON - It's nearly 30 years to the day that Americans went to China to play pingpong, ushering in the diplomacy of the same name that led to the opening of the Chinese mainland to the United States.

Sports did it, so maybe sports could do it again the next time there's a crisis. With the paddles stored since U.S. players visited China on April 10, 1971, maybe it's time to bring out the golf clubs - wielded by none other than Tiger Woods, even if he was born five years after the advent of pingpong diplomacy.

It was striking how two stories dominated most front pages of American newspapers Monday morning: Tiger Woods' landmark victory in capturing the Masters and the Grand Slam of golf and the then-stalemate over the midair collision between the U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter that killed the Chinese pilot and left 24 U.S. personnel hostage.

Who says politics at its best is about great speeches, floor maneuvers, dexterity in committee meetings and tough diplomacy?

President Bush could have called on Tiger Woods, who is a blend of many backgrounds - African-American, Native American and Thai - to use "golf diplomacy" to help resolve the crisis. He's as much a man of the world as he is an American. His humility and charm could play a helpful role.

The times are different, and pingpong diplomacy can never be repeated. But maybe we can intertwine some golf with our political and economic talks. Perhaps Tiger Woods could lead an effort to invite Chinese students to our country to learn a game that they rarely play. And as the Chinese learn more about our game, maybe we can continue our struggle to learn more about ourselves.

David M. Anderson, a political theorist and ethicist, is associate research professor at the George Washington University.

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