China’s Good Start of Sheep Year

China proudly celebrated the New Year, for it was over with very good results

The world’s largest bell in the Beijing Temple of Dazhongsi rang at midnight of January 31 - February 1, Beijing time. The ringing of the bell announced the beginning of the Year of the Sheep. At least one-third of the global population celebrated the Chinese New Year: one billion three hundred million Chinese citizens, the Vietnamese, the Koreans, a considerable part of the Japanese, as well as millions of members of the Chinese diaspora all over the world. Furthermore, the whole world loves those eleven real animals and one mythical one. These symbols are way more popular in the world in comparison with European zodiac signs.

It would be reasonable to look into the matter of typical mistakes that non-Chinese people make as far as the Chinese calendar is concerned. First and foremost, this is not the Lunar calendar. Secondly, it does not have the history of five thousand years. The only Lunar calendar, which is widely-known in the world nowadays is the Muslim Lunar calendar. It has certain inconveniences, since its months do not indicate seasons. The moon cycle makes up 29.5 days, which makes a moon year ten days shorter than a sun year. As a result, the beginning of the year is gradually shifted from spring to winter, from winter to autumn, and so on. In other words, any month of the Muslim Lunar calendar does not reflect a specific season. For example, the month of Maharam can be a summer month and then it becomes a spring, or a winter month.

The Chinese avoided such an inconvenience, when they developed their own calendar. They equated the Moon and the Sun: the New Year always happens during the period of the second new moon after the day of the winter solstice (December 22). That is why, the gap between the beginning of the New Year on the generally used Gregorian calendar and on the Chinese Lunar and Solar calendar is never longer than a month and a half. Since the moon cycle is shorter than the one of the sun, the Chinese made up the 13th month to compensate the periodical difference. This month is used in the calendar seven times every 19 years. This happened to the Year of the Snake (the year before last), which lasted 383 days, in difference to the Year of the Horse, which lasted 354 days and was just over.

Needless to mention that the invention of such a complicated system required the immaculate knowledge of astronomy. The Chinese would not be able to do it five thousand years ago, of course, when their neo-political civilization was getting started. The peak of China’s genius at that period of time was their invention of painted ceramics. It is generally believed, that the Lunar-Solar Chinese calendar was put into practice in the first century B.C.

The figurativeness of Chinese people’s thoughts is exercised in a lot of things. The written Chinese language does not represent common phonetic signs. It represents pictures, which got simplified with time. A compass, which was invented by the Chinese in ancient times, was not a boring arrow with letters ‘N’ and ‘S.’ An ancient Chinese compass was a little scoop with a graciously bent handle. The Chinese calendar is not a table of numbers, but the cycle of rotational symbolic animals. The specific way of the Chinese conduct opens up unlimited opportunities for astrological fantasy. Each animal has specific advantages - Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

People can always be ironic about the things that astrologers say. However, amazing coincidences are rather frequent. For example, the year 1966 was the Year of the Horse. The Chinese Horse is typical for its peculiarity and unconventional conduct. The year 1996 was the year of the cultural revolution in China. The year 1978 was also the Year of the Horse. This was the year, when the Communist Party of China with Deng Xiaoping at the head turned the country to reforms. The horse was the symbol of the year 2002 too. Needless to mention that it was rather an unconventional year. It was the first year of China's membership in the World Trade Organization. As it turned out, a lot of past anxiety did not come true, while even most optimistic forecasts surpassed all expectations. There were economists, who feared that the inundation of foreign goods after the reduction of customs tariffs might ruin the Chinese industry and slow down the economic development. As a matter of fact, the Gross Domestic Product made up about ten trillion Chinese yuans (1.2 trillion US dollars). This is the eight percent increase, or almost one percent vs. the results of the year 2001.

When they talk about the WTO membership in China, they do not conceal the challenges that are connected with it: the weakness of the financial and banking systems, the price reduction phenomenon as an indication of the overproduction crisis, inability for several enterprises and industrial branches to compete. Other factors include unemployment and the explicit differentiation between the poor and the rich. Probably, another weak point will be something that is considered to be a power in China: the growing positions of the foreign capital, particularly of transnational corporations. Optimism prevails, though. There is a reason to think so, for China is fine in the World Trade Organization. The country abides by its obligations, while its industrial energy remains the same. Here are some facts to prove it:

- China's foreign trade turnover in 2002 made up almost 620.8 billion USD. This is 21.8% as much as it was in 2001. Export made up 325.57 billion USD (+22.3%), import – 295.22 billion USD (+21.2%). About 48% of export fell for machine-building and electronic production;
- Foreign currency reserves made up almost 280 billion American dollars;
- China became the world’s leader on the amount of attracted foreign capital – about 50 billion dollars;
- Investments in the basic assets over the year 2002 exceeded four trillion yuans. This happened owing to the active financial policy of the state, due to non-governmental investments from abroad;
- Value added industrial production gained 12.6% and made up almost 3.15 trillion yuans (100 American dollars are converted to 827.7 yuans).

There is the colossal labor and thought-out economic strategy standing behind those figures. This is the beginning of the Year of the Sheep. Experts have already calculated that the economic growth in the year 2003 would slow down a little. Yet, the seven percent level will most likely be overcome. Local Chinese forecasts predict that this situation will be preserved until the year 2020, if a foreign factor does not disturb the process.

Andrey Krushinsky

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Olga Savka