Let's consider some alternatives. Suppose the float showed a Chinese peasant in a coolie outfit. Or a half-naked Zulu warrior brandishing a spear? Both images were commonplace 150 years ago. What do you think the reaction would be to a huge half-naked African warrior (savage)?
We have a point of comparison here. The Chinese government entered a float to celebrate the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Here's what the float displayed:
Beijing Olympic Float in Los Angeles Rose Parade wins award
On the "Ethereal Color and Celestial Fragrance" showcase area, four performers played the martial male role, young male role, ladies' role and young girls' role respectively to showcase different traditional costumes and styles of the quintessence of the Chinese culture--the Peking Opera.
In the "Blossoms of colors" area, four acrobats dressed in flower pistil patterns performed the Soft Merit, indicating the longing for vigorous life. In the "Dancing Butterflies" area, two acrobats dressed in butterfly patterns played ballet with acrobatic skills, just like a pair of butterflies flying and dancing among the flowers.
Meanwhile, the Indian float had a stoic, grim-faced chief from a century and a half ago. He was accompanied by another chief (or a cowboy) and two bears--i.e. more old and endangered symbols. The message? The Chinese are a people with a future. Indians are a people with a past.