Chinese float gives joy at Macy’s parade
Emmy Ye, a freshman at Boston College, was surprised to see a Chinese float during her first Thanksgiving Day parade in New York on Thursday. “I think it is very cool,” said the Chinese international student, who arrived at the parade route at 4:30 am to secure a good vantage point. “I didn’t think there would be a Chinese float.”
The float, called Beauty of Beijing, is the first Chinese float in the storied Macy’s parade, which took place for the 88th time in New York.
The Chinese float features tourism destinations in Beijing including the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven. Macy’s estimated that 3.5 million people would watch the parade in person and 50 million more would see it on television.
A marching band of around 130 from Staten Island, New York, performed in traditional Chinese clothes. A lion-dancing group was also with the float, interacting with spectators.
“The lion dancing is really cool,” said Patrick Flanagan, a Columbia University student, as people around him took photos with their cellphones, and children were reaching out their hands to the lion.
The Sino-American Friendship Association (SAFA), a nonprofit organization that focuses on strengthening friendship and understanding between the US and China, sponsored the float.
“There were a lot of discussions,” said Li Li, executive vicepresident of the association.
The float’s design began about a year and a half ago, according to Jessica Moretti, one of the Beauty of Beijing’s designers from Macy’s.
The event could “promote Sino-US friendship and bring the two peoples much closer”, said Zhang Meifang, deputy consul general of the Chinese Consulate General in New York
“It is a very good method to help Chinese culture and tradition known to the United States and the world,” she told China Daily.
Zhang said she expects more exchanges and tourism between China and the US, as both countries agreed to extend tourist and students’ visa validity to 10 and five years, respectively, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing earlier this month.
“It’s the first time that we have used such an international festival to promote Beijing’s tourism,” said Zhang Jing, director of city image and marketing at the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development. “It’s an innovation.”
He told China Daily that Beijing has been renovating its tourism resources and developing new routes. For example, the banquet hall at the National Aquatics Center, known as the Water Cube, where world leaders had dinner during the APEC meeting, will be preserved until Chinese Lunar New Year next year. The hall will be open to tourists.
The US is China’s fourthlargest source of foreign tourism and the largest to Beijing. More than 2 million American tourists visited China last year — 740,000 of those to Beijing, according to Beijing and national tourism figures.
The float “delivers the message that Beijing is forever an ideal destination for tourism, and helps with the tourism industry of overall China”, said Xue Yaping, director of the China National Tourist Office in New York.
The Macy’s parade featured 27 floats, 1,300 cheerleaders and dancers, 1,000 clowns, 12 marching bands, and many celebrity performers, such as musicians Sting and KISS. The parade , which went from 9 am to noon, started on the Upper West Side, at 77th Street and Central Park West, turned east at 59th Street, and concluded at Macy’s headquarters in Herald Square at 34th Street in Manhattan.
Beijing is also conducting another promotional campaign in the New York area. A video featuring Beijing’s 72-hour visa-free policy is being shown on some 3,000 screens at 340 commuter trains and 13 stations along the PATH route between New Jersey and New York City.
Since January 2013, tourists from the US and 44 other countries who are traveling to a third country can stay in Beijing without a visa for 72 hours. The policy is one way China is looking to improve its tourism numbers as it faces challenges from other Asian nations and other factors, such as air pollution, according to Xue. Foreign travelers to Beijing have fallen by 6.4 percent so far this year. Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to the story.