WATCH: Toni Waterman is in Paris to enjoy the celebrations
Hundreds of people gathered at the Chinese Embassy in Paris on Tuesday night to mark the 60th anniversary of Sino-French diplomatic relations and to usher in the Chinese New Year.
The evening began with a photo exhibit which weaved the story of the partnership, including the newspaper fronts announcing the historic deal in 1964. France was the first major western nation to recognize China under the leadership of President Charles de Gaulle.
"For the past six decades, France and China have kept their word which is independence, mutual understanding, and mutual benefits. With these principles, the cooperation between our two countries has led to encouraging results," said Lu Shaye, China's Ambassador to France.
More than 300 guests were treated to a performance by the Paris Chamber Orchestra, which played Tan Dun's Intercourse of Fire and Water. There was also a cooking show that included a blind-folded chef chopping food.
Among the guests were business leaders, former ambassadors and politicians, including the former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
"2024 is a big year for the cooperation between France and China," Raffarin told CGTN Europe. "It's a year that has a lot of importance for us, with the cultural corporation, tourism and it is also the year of the Olympics where several Chinese athletes will, I'm sure, win gold medals. I wish everyone - all my French and Chinese friends - A Happy New Year!"
Year of the Loong
The night was also an opportunity to usher in the Year of the Loong, or dragon in English. In the west, a dragon is often depicted as a dark force, but in China it is auspicious, a symbol of power and success.
Tuesday's celebration was just one of dozens of events planned throughout the year - both in China and France - to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations. And 2024 is the official year of China - French cultural tourism.
"I think cultural and people-to-people exchanges are more important than ever. A good relationship between states is founded on a good friendship between the people," said Ambassador Lu.
To encourage more Europeans to visit China, the government has offered visa-free entry for up to 15-days to citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain.