Feb. 7 slipped by quietly, and few would have guessed that halfway around the world 1.2 billion people were setting off firecrackers and celebrating the dawn of another year.
No, not the New Year that comes every January, but the beginning of the 4706th year of the lunar calendar. Celebrated by the Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese, the Lunar New Year often brings good tidings, good food and good fortune.
Funny, it feels like yesterday that hospitals in China were worried about how the “Year of the Pig,” a golden one no less, would result in more births than the state-run healthcare system could handle. The Golden Pig, which happens once every 60 years, is reputed to be an auspicious time to have a child. Surprisingly, it spiked the birth rate by a measly 0.2 births per thousand.
Despite its docile name of “golden pig,” year 4705 behaved more like a ravenous wild boar than Babe – unpredictable and capricious. No doubt that China had her moments of glory – she hosted the FIFA women’s world cup, watched the frenzied Shanghai composite triple in value and achieved mind-boggling economic growth once more. But none of these were without blemish – the national team made an early exit from the World Cup, a market correction shut down the investors’ decadent ball, and numerous scandals about chemicals in manufactured goods shook the confidence of both consumers and companies.
Whether the rat will bring more of the same is anybody’s guess. But perhaps this year’s most memorable event will be none other than the much-anticipated Beijing Olympics. This summer’s games are touted by many to be China’s magnum opus, the grand showcase of a newly modernized nation. But with many months to go before the first athlete sets foot on the track, Chinese students have already found themselves in a different kind of rat race. With more than 800,000 students vying for the 70,000 volunteer positions one can only imagine the type of competition these students will face when they finally join the workforce several years later. Whether rat, pig or dragon, the only animal that will be able to help them then would be none other than the bull.
Kevin Toh is a junior majoring in biochemistry and microbiology. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.