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One of the first public hints of improved U.S.-China relations came on April 6, 1971, when the American Ping-Pong team, in Japan for the 31st World Table Tennis Championship, received a surprise invitation from their Chinese colleagues for an all-expense paid visit to the People's Republic. Time magazine called it "The ping heard round the world." On April 10, nine players, four officials, and two spouses stepped across a bridge from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland, ushering in an era of "Ping-Pong diplomacy." They were the first group of Americans allowed into China since the Communist takeover in 1949. Ping-Pong was "an apt metaphor for the relations between Washington and Peking as each nation signaled, in turn, its openness to change. Despite the public warming trend, Nixon and Kissinger decided to keep their back-channel negotiations with China to themselves. It was not until July 15, after Kissinger's secret mission to Beijing, that Nixon announced that he, too, would make the journey the following year, as the first American president to visit China.