Baseball serves as bridge for US ties

Updated: 2014-08-04 01:54

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily USA)

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Baseball serves as bridge for US ties

Chinese community leaders, including Zhang Meifang (third from left), deputy consul general in New York, receive awards from the New York Mets in at the Citi Field Baseball Stadium on Saturday. The team hosted its annual event - "An Evening of Chinese Culture" to open the baseball game.[Jack Freifelder / China Daily]

Baseball may be America's national pastime, and while the jury is still out on whether the sport will ever find a similar following in China, several Chinese community leaders are happy to use it as a bridge for better understanding between the world's two largest economies.

On Saturday at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, the home of Major League Baseball's New York Mets, Deputy Consul General of China Zhang Meifang and a number of other Chinese community leaders were honored as part of an annual celebration of Chinese culture hosted by the hometown baseball club.

"This year marks the 35th anniversary of US-China relations and a lot of things have been achieved over that span," Zhang said. "Organizations in the US have been working very hard to promote Chinese culture. Sino-US cooperation between our two countries will help increase and promote mutual understanding."

The 2014 edition of "An Evening of Chinese Culture" featured an on-field award presentation honoring five individuals, a gift giving ceremony with a team official and a video ad campaign displaying information about China throughout the stadium during the game.

Other community leaders joining Zhang at the game between the Mets and the San Francisco Giants included Li Li, president of the Sino-American Culture and Arts Foundation (SACAF), and Peter Zhang, president of the Sino-American Friendship Association (SAFA).

Li said that baseball and sports in general were a good way to get a cross-cultural dialogue going between Chinese and American citizens.

"This stadium can hold more than 40,000 fans and that's one of the biggest ways we can approach Americans who are interested in learning about Chinese culture," Li said Saturday in an interview with China Daily.

Li, who is also executive vice-president of SAFA, said that in the 22 years since SAFA's founding the organization has learned a lot about engaging an American audience. And the same was true for the Chinese cultural event at Citi Field, which she said had grown noticeably in its six years of operation.

"This is the next step in introducing Chinese culture to the younger generations in America, and of course, they are the future," she said.

Flushing is home to more than 33,000 Chinese, according to the latest US Census, and the Mets organization is very cognizant of Queens' "large Asian population", said David Newman, the team's senior vice-president of marketing and communications.

"Everybody knows the Mets are very involved with the community," Newman said. "New York is the melting pot of the entire world and introducing our fans to some elements of Chinese culture at a baseball game is something different and something we're excited to do."

Zhang said she was eager to learn about baseball, especially "the spirit behind the game and how the sport became so popular in the US".

"In the past through this event they've had a lot of Chinese cultural activities like martial arts and traditional Chinese performance arts to show China's history and culture," Zhang said. "This is not the first year of this event, so our joint efforts will continue to promote Sino-US cooperation.

"And we hope this event will attract more Americans to engage with Chinese culture in the future," she said.