Foreign Minister Qin Gang delivers a video message during the NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Orlando Magics on Saturday, Spring Festival Eve. (PHOTO / MFA.GOV.CN)
On Spring Festival Eve of Saturday, at local time, Foreign Minister Qin Gang delivered a video message during the NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Orlando Magics.
"Happy Chinese New Year to DC family!" he said. "This is the Year of the Rabbit, which symbolizes kindness, elegance and beauty."
The event was filled with a festive atmosphere and Chinese cultural elements and attracted nearly 20,000 American basketball fans to the Arena
The Washington Wizards, formerly known as the Washington Bullets, visited China shortly after the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States in 1979, and was the first NBA team to visit China.
The team has since carried on the tradition of friendship and visited China several times. It also played several warm-up games with Chinese basketball teams visiting the US.
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In his message, Qin, who was appointed foreign minister before the past year ended, noted that in December he was at Capital One Arena as Chinese ambassador to the US and "spent a wonderful evening watching a fabulous game" involving the Washington Wizards.
"Today I am glad to join you again in celebrating the Chinese New Year. I wish the Chinese and American people a prosperous Year of the Rabbit and a bright future! Good luck to everyone and enjoy the game!," he said.
The event was filled with a festive atmosphere and Chinese cultural elements and attracted nearly 20,000 American basketball fans to the Arena.
Before the start of the game, two American Chinese artists played the US National Anthem with Pipa, a traditional Chinese plucked string instrument.
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During timeouts, the staff tossed many Chinese zodiac rabbits to the audience, and triggered a "scramble".
The panda mascots, played by Chinese diplomats' children, made an appearance on the court, winning loud applause and cheers from the audience. Local Chinese community also brought Chinese cultural performances.
China Media Group broadcasted the event live to its Chinese audiences.