By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia was the first stop Wednesday for China’s premier orchestral ensemble as part of a whirlwind six-day tour of North America. The Philadelphia Orchestra played host to its close partners.

A busy day of appearances for China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra began with a midday pop-up concert at Liberty Place in Center City.

Their visit comes at a time of simmering political tensions between Washington and Beijing, but Philadelphia Orchestra Executive Director Ryan Fleur says none of that matters.

“Music has the power to transcend politics and boundaries,” he said, “and we’re thrilled to have such close strategic partners.”

Fleur says this transnational partnership began in 2012.

“Every year we go out to Beijing and we work with students, we work with musicians,” he said, “we go around the community and give performances, and today, we’re getting a return gift in favor.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Walter Douglass says the broader diplomatic relationship between the two superpowers was sparked by former President Richard Nixon more than forty years ago.

“He started off with ping-pong diplomacy, I think was the beginning, and ever since then the relationship has gone on this sort of social and cultural area,” Douglass said. “But I would say it’s thriving today like never before.”

The NCPA Orchestra also has stops scheduled in New York city , Chicago, San Francisco, Ann Arbor and Chapel Hill.