Flying Start

Flying start

Surging appetite for overseas travel has shifted the focus of Spring Festival for many Chinese people as Year of the Rooster arrives

For China Daily Asia Weekly

Asians have been celebrating the lunar new year for more than four millennia in one way or another. The celebration’s focus on the family ensures the world’s largest annual migration takes place every year — even if for many people that focus has shifted a little, to leisure travel and the chance for an overseas getaway.

By some estimates, train tickets in China have been selling at a rate of 1,000 per second, with traffic during this year’s Spring Festival rush expected to be 2.2 percent higher than last year’s.

On Jan 13, Chinese people still had two weeks to make their way home before lunar new year’s eve on Jan 27. And in the week following new year’s eve, it is estimated they will make around 2.5 billion road trips, 356 million train commutes, 58 million plane journeys and 42 million boat rides.

Passengers arrive at the train station as they prepare to travel to their hometowns for the "Spring Festival" or Lunar New Year on January 24, 2017 at Beijing Railway Station. The huge movement of Chinese travelling home to spend the Lunar New Year with their families is often described as the world's largest human migration and overcrowded planes, trains and automobiles are the norm. / AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURI

Passengers arrive at the train station as they prepare to travel to their hometowns for the “Spring Festival” or Lunar New Year on January 24, 2017 at Beijing Railway Station.
The huge movement of Chinese travelling home to spend the Lunar New Year with their families is often described as the world’s largest human migration and overcrowded planes, trains and automobiles are the norm. / AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURI

A spokesman for the State Council, China’s cabinet, noted that “Chinese people have never been more affluent and keen to travel, nor have there ever been more migrant workers in cities far from home”.

The lunar new year, also referred to as Chinese new year or Spring Festival, is marked throughout Asia. According to the zodiac calendar, the Year of the Rooster begins on Jan 28.

While Japan does not designate the event as an official holiday, South Korea celebrates Seollal in style with meals and various dishes such as tteokguk, a traditional rice cake soup.

In Singapore, the festival is marked much like it is in the Chinese mainland, with large family meals on the eve of the lunar new year. Family members overseas often return to Singapore and fill up on traditional dishes such as bak kwa, marinated and barbecued pork served in thin sheets. Pineapple tarts are also common.

In Vietnam, the Tet celebration can last for about seven days. Malaysia not only marks the lunar new year, perhaps the most important festival for the country’s large Chinese population, but also Chap Goh Mei, or the 15th night of the Chinese new year.

Indonesia celebrates the event with a public holiday, but one that is particularly important for the millions of ethnic Chinese in the country.

In China, the celebrations are huge. Fireworks are the norm along with big meals and, increasingly, travel. While much focus is on returning to one’s hometown to reunite with family during Spring Festival, more people each year are using the long break to travel abroad.

“The Chinese new year has become international,” said Xu Guoqi, a professor of history at the University of Hong Kong.

Originally from East China’s Anhui province, Xu said the nature of Spring Festival traditions in the Chinese mainland has changed along with demographics, economics and society. In the modern celebrations of the Spring Festival, a couple of factors stand out, said Xu.

One is the giant human wave that moves across China. Regardless of whatever changes might be under way, the flow of people within the Chinese mainland during the holiday is enormous and indicative of the size of what is undoubtedly the biggest celebration in East Asia.

“It’s like (Americans’) Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl combined. It is huge,” Xu told China Daily Asia Weekly.

Thankfully, travel is becoming easier. “When I think about Chinese new year in the old days, it was torture,” said Xu. Not uncommon were trips of around 30 hours, often in crowded trains where going to the bathroom was out of the question as it required giving up valuable floor space.

Chinese infrastructure has changed enormously and traveling home is generally a lot more convenient and faster, but there are still occasional bottlenecks.

In 2008, for example, millions across the country were stranded when huge storms brought the mainland’s rail and air travel networks to a standstill and roads were closed.

Xu recalled being stuck in the southern Guangdong province with half a million people.

He paid for an expensive flight out, but many were stuck for days. Last year, some 100,000 people were again stuck in Guangdong as storms played havoc with the transportation system.

A second factor is a relatively new change in Chinese society — the growing likelihood that members of the same family come from different towns or even different provinces. Not that long ago, both sets of parents of a married couple were likely to come from the same town or general vicinity.

That is no longer the case, as internal migration has grown. For young married couples, this raises the question of where to celebrate the Spring Festival.

“For Chinese, the question is, where is their ‘hometown’? Is it a village? Is it a region? Is it the country? Or is it abroad?” said Xu.

A third factor is the change in societal expectations.

“Once upon a time, Chinese people were duty bound to go home for the Chinese new year. That is no longer the case,” said Xu. “The younger generation, the ‘me’ generation, they don’t want to be told what to do.

“It is a different generation, and different generations have different stories to tell.”

This is compounded by the fact that a large burden may be put on them during this traditional holiday to look after their parents, to marry, to get a good job, and more.

A fourth factor is the growth of international travel, particularly for younger people and those who may not yet have their own families.

China’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip, in its 2017 Spring Festival Tourism Big Data Report, said this season will be the “hottest” on record for outbound travel.

In 2016, some 6 million Chinese tourists went abroad during the holiday and more are expected to do so this year. Among the top destinations are Thailand, Japan, the United States, Malaysia and Vietnam.

“Particularly if you are single, you might not want to get caught up in the traditional celebration,” said Xu. “Recently, I spent six months in the US and you can see Chinese tourists everywhere.”

As recently as a decade ago “you did not see many Chinese people abroad and not many places paid attention to Chinese tourists”, said Xu.

In New York City, for example, the celebration of lunar new year has become so popular that the city is considering making it a holiday. Schools in the city already give students the day as a holiday.

This reflects the potential for tourist income during the festival and also underlines the fact that Chinese people now have a much greater reach than ever.

“Chinese people are everywhere and the world wants to cash in on that,” Xu said.

This movement toward more international travel during the Spring Festival is particularly visible among the younger generation.

Sammy Hsieh, cofounder and CEO of iClick Interactive Asia, a China-focused digital-marketing company, said the rise of Chinese travelers is indisputable.

He said Ctrip’s suggestion that more than 6 million Chinese people will travel overseas is “small compared to the 2 billion trips domestically, but shows steady growth”.

For the time being, however, the practical realities of access continue to dominate the choices Chinese travelers make.

“While the top destinations are still influenced by the choice of flights and the visa application process, there is increasing diversity as travelers are keen to explore new destinations and are seeking more experiences,” Hsieh said. “This is a reflection of access to services and increased levels of disposable income.”

He added that spending habits and destinations are evolving along with how consumers purchase travel. “Tours are falling out of favor as individual travel is increasingly preferred, and travelers will no longer rely on offline travel agencies but would prefer to research and buy online.”

Also, these travelers are becoming increasingly discerning about quality. “They are willing to spend on more high-quality accommodation and spending on localized products as opposed to generic tax-free shopping,” said Hsieh.

“Chinese overseas travelers are still a key consumer base for marketers to reach and attract, but success comes from understanding the patterns of change.”

Cashing in on the zodiac calendar High demand from early-bird collectors meant that the latest additions to Australia’s lunar coin series were snapped up fast

By KARL WILSON in Sydney

When The Perth Mint released its gold and silver bullion coins for the Year of the Rooster back in September, demand was so great that the 1-ounce (28-gram) silver issue had sold out by just before Christmas. Its counterpart 1-ounce gold coin issue is not far behind.

These highly sought-after coins are just two of the offerings in the mint’s expansive Australian Lunar Series. Comprising individual gold bullion coins from 1/10 ounce to 1 ounce and silver coins from 1/2 ounce to 1 kilogram, they are legal tender issues that give investors choice and convenience.

All the coins are finely crafted at Australia’s specialist precious metals mint which was established in 1899, two years before Australia became an independent nation in 1901.

The Perth Mint came into being when Australia was still made up of British colonies. It was one of three mints (Sydney and Melbourne mints have since closed) established to take advantage of the massive gold discoveries in the mid to late 1800s.

Together these mints refined gold from the New South Wales, Victorian and Western Australian mines to produce gold sovereigns and half-sovereigns for the British Empire.

Today, with more than a century of precious metals refining and minting expertise, The Perth Mint offers the most comprehensive range of lunar new year coins on the market.

“The idea to start producing lunar coins followed comments by Paul Keating when he was prime minister of Australia (from 1991 to 1996),” said Neil Vance, the mint’s group manager for minted products.

“Keating said that Australia’s future was in Asia and that we needed to embrace the region and its culture.

“So we decided to produce limited-edition bullion and proof coins to celebrate the ancient calendar and also recognize the large number of Chinese people living in Australia,” he said.

The mint first produced its Australian lunar gold coins in 1996 to celebrate the Year of the Rat, and these were followed three years later with a silver series to introduce the Year of the Rabbit. It was then that the dual-metal program began, with each year’s design featuring a different animal associated with the ancient calendar.

“So far, we have completed one full zodiac calendar and are just two years away from completing our second series,” Vance told China Daily Asia Weekly from his office in Perth.

He said the mint takes great pride in its Australian Lunar Series, which has gained global recognition over the years.

As its signature lunar coin series, this Australian program has inspired a broader suite of commemoratives which display original lunar artistry in varying styles.

While The Perth Mint’s lunar coins will not be found in circulation, they are valuable additions to an investment portfolio or collection.

“There has always been strong demand for our lunar coins,” said Vance.

“While there is a large market for these issues in Asia, the design theme is also strong in the United States and Europe.”

While all of The Perth Mint’s lunar coins are minted in Australia, Vance estimates that only 20 percent stay in the country, with the rest exported to satisfy international demand.

“As the program has increasingly gained popularity, we have sold out of every 1-ounce gold and 1-ounce silver bullion coin since the second Australian Lunar Series was introduced in 2007,” he said.

The Perth Mint has built a reputation for innovation, quality craftsmanship and fine design. Testimony to these talents, it was one of the first mints in the world to produce coins celebrating the lunar calendar, and the first foreign mint to sell them into China.

To develop the Australian lunar coins, Vance said the mint employs several artists who begin working on the coin designs at least two years in advance of their release.

“The first step is to provide the designers with a constructive brief, from which they begin their research to discover what motifs can be included in each design.

“It also helps that a member of our creative team is of Chinese heritage, as there are certain elements that hold particular significance in this culture and they are important to embrace,” said Vance.

Rooster’s call to 
wake up market Tongue-in-cheek index predicts positive returns in real estate but investors warned not to place all their eggs in one basket

By Carmen Ho in Hong Kong
For China Daily Asia Weekly

The rooster is about to make his first cry as the mischievous monkey leaves the stage. As investors ready themselves for the turn of the fortune wheel, many look to renowned feng shui masters for tips on where to peck for dollars and what omens to flap away.

According to the five elements system of Chinese astrology, the year that officially starts on Jan 28 is a “fire rooster” year, taking over from the “fire monkey”.

Investors will be happy to hear that this year’s rooster is likely to bring positive returns on the Hang Seng Index (HSI), as well as opportunities to lay golden eggs in China’s real estate market.

“As always, to see the future we look to the past,” said senior investment analyst Cherry Ma at the 23rd CLSA Feng Shui Index conference, held in Hong Kong on Jan 18.

CLSA is a Hong Kong-based brokerage and investment group. Its annual tongue-in-cheek report uses the traditional methodology of feng shui to chart the seasonal movements of Hong Kong’s benchmark equity index.

“We followed our monkey closely at the beginning of 2016, charting the Hang Seng Index’s rise from February to March … We didn’t fully appreciate how much he would disappoint up to May. From then onwards we chased him up and down.”

On June 24, the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the HSI plummeted 1,000 points. For the rest of 2016, CLSA’s feng shui masters accurately predicted the monkey’s slow climb and gradual tapering off. The year began with 19,183 points and ended with 22,150.

“This year, there should be positive returns on the Hang Seng Index, but it will not be a smooth year,” said Jeffrey Tong, senior research associate at CLSA.

Indeed, keen followers of feng shui patterns and the stock market know that the rooster, although humble and hardworking, has seen many ups and downs in previous years, as reflected in past HSI performances.

In 2005, the previous rooster year, the bird of the wood element woke up late, starting the day with 14,017 points. He pecked around lazily for most of the first half of the year, and by July, the index was still pretty much where it had been in February.

But then he shook his feathers and brought the index up 15 percent midway through August. The year ended with a marginal gain, at 15,753 points.

In 1993, the water rooster strutted confidently with only a few setbacks. The year opened with 5,924 points and ended with a soaring rooster at 11,504 points.

In 1981, the metal rooster sang at the wrong time, dropping 25 percent in the first two months. The first issue of China Daily was published on June 1, but the rooster was too busy trying to catch up to pause for celebration.

He tried to make up for his early blunders by leaping to unseen heights, but forgot his limitations and crashed to the ground in October. Still a fighter, the bird got back on his feet and inched onward, finishing with 1,405 points, 230 points less than he started with.

The Hang Seng Index was introduced on Nov 24, 1969. That same year, on the Dow Jones Industrial Average the earth rooster cackled madly all the way down, sliding from 938 points to 750 points. Not even the official birth of the Internet on April 7, Neil Armstrong’s achievement as the first man on the moon on July 21, or the Sumitomo Bank’s introduction of Japan’s first ATM on Dec 1 could steer the tragic rooster away from the butcher.

“The rooster is nimble and hardworking; he cries in the morning. And as the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. But timing is important,” said CLSA’s Ma.

Timing is therefore crucial in the uncertain year ahead, especially as the Donald Trump administration in the United States may affect trade and bilateral relations with the Chinese mainland. Hong Kong may also experience a shuffling of feathers as speculations fly over who will be the next chief executive.

“If you get the market timing right, if you pick the right choice in the right element, then you will earn even in a bad market,” said Ma.

So what to pick, and when?

“Fire burns wood, which turns into ash and goes into the earth,” said Tong. “So the earth element should do well.”

That means the property sector. Concrete, construction, renewables, agriculture and real estate are good bets for most of the year. But in terms of property investments, location cannot be neglected.

Everything in the north should do better, according to the feng shui masters.

In Hong Kong, that means the god of wealth is about to be especially generous to homeowners in the Kowloon peninsula and New Territories.

Southwest, northwest and northeast directions also seem reasonable, but investors are warned against going east. That means it is best to avoid areas such as Repulse Bay and Shek O.

On the other hand, property investors venturing further north to the Chinese mainland are likely to see their pockets overflow with cash by year-end, said Ma.

Other than earth industries, at the beginning of the year, and especially in April, the rooster will particularly favor wood industries such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

Fire industries including oil and gas, utilities, technology and the Internet will shine extra bright mid-year. Outside of the summer months, however, it is best to avoid investing in these sectors.

From August to November, especially in October, the rooster will be in the mood for metal, which points to the automobile, machinery and financial segments, including banks and insurance.

Water industries such as gaming and transport should be avoided from May to October, but the tides will turn from November onward and peak in December.

In terms of overall strength, CLSA feng shui masters favor earth and fire industries this year, but they caution against putting all eggs in one basket.

A flat start is forecast for the HSI this year, before the rooster finally begins to take flight in the second quarter.

A downturn is expected mid-year as well as some turbulence in the third quarter. The rooster will particularly nurture eggs in earth industries when the hot summer starts to wind down, so property and resources industries are likely to flourish by then. But investors are advised to be as quick and picky as the rooster.

The year-end will see higher returns than the start, but gains are expected to gradually slide.

Poultry market feels the pinch Once-thriving sector in Hong Kong sees locally raised chickens give way to imports in the face of rising prices and bird-flu fears


As the Year of the Rooster kicks off, Asia’s traditional poultry habits may be under threat. Farm closures, spiraling prices and waves of bird flu are steering consumers away from locally raised chickens and toward imported frozen meat.

Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in Hong Kong. Here, chicken is not just a dish but a cultural icon. And during the lunar new year it is not unusual for the bird to be served whole — head, feet and all — as a symbol of a complete year and family togetherness. Traditionally, it is freshly killed.

In the basement of the city’s Sheung Wan Market are rows of booths and brine-soaked tile floors. A cross section of housewives, chefs, pensioners and domestic helpers haggle over fresh fish, poultry, pork and other cuts. In a half-dozen stalls at one end, live chickens wait in metal cages to be slaughtered for home-cooked meals.

“Since (my family) doesn’t like beef or mutton, we often eat chicken,” explained a 60-year-old retiree surnamed Goh. Her family prefers to eat locally raised chickens, she said. “They don’t have any added hormones.”

But the poultry market is feeling the pinch. According to government figures, the number of chicken farms in Hong Kong has fallen by 80 percent since 1997. Only 29 farms remain open.

At the same time, the number of chickens passing through Hong Kong’s sole wholesale poultry market has declined rapidly. Between 2013 and 2016, live poultry throughput fell 36 percent to just under 8,000 tons last year.

While 95 percent of this live poultry was locally raised, that pales in comparison to the more than 294 million tons of chilled and frozen chicken imported from the likes of Brazil, the United States and the Chinese mainland.

The situation today is a far cry from Hong Kong’s once-thriving local poultry market, where chicken cultivation in villages and backyards was common. Though swathes of farmland converted to non-agricultural use in the 1980s reduced production, the home-raising of chickens did not end until 1997. That year, an outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza led the government to ban backyard chickens.

In 2003, serious acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, killed almost 300 people in Hong Kong. The government then began buying out poultry farmers, with further buyouts in 2008.

“The primary goal (of the industry) has to be ensuring a high standard of quality and safety of the imported meat,” said Dirk Pfeiffer, chair professor of One Health at the School of Veterinary Medicine at City University of Hong Kong.

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DIRK PFEIFFER, chair professor of One Health, School of Veterinary Medicine, City University of Hong Kong.

“At the same time, it is useful to maintain a small poultry industry that operates at the highest possible standard in terms of productivity, food safety and animal welfare.”

This approach has had an impact on local sales of live poultry as imports are halted in the face of disease. Instead, imported frozen and chilled foods have raced ahead. And Hong Kong — once an exporter of eggs — now imports more than 1.5 billion eggs a year.

The appeal of locally produced foodstuffs is all about quality, said a Hong Kong chef surnamed Tham.

“The fact that local chickens have no added hormones means eating them puts you at ease,” he said. “But the prices when compared to mainland chickens are so much higher. There’s also the fact no one knows what kind of drugs mainland chickens have been injected or fed with. That does worry people.”

The majority of Hong Kong people now eat chicken from the Chinese mainland, he said.

Max Levy, a chef who recently opened Okra, a Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong, told China Daily Asia Weekly that knowing the quality of the produce is a major issue for buyers.

“Obviously, buying fresh, whole chickens gives us more options in terms of preparation, but it also is easier to determine the quality of the product,” he said.

Although Levy buys poultry from Hong Kong, for certain dishes he imports from farms in Jiangmen in South China’s Guangdong province or Shanghai.

Yet, while “quality product will always be more expensive no matter where it comes from”, local breeds are becoming inordinately expensive, he said.

During the Mid-Autumn Festival last September, prices for live chicken, including imported stock, rocketed by around a third.

Ma Ping-lung, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Poultry Dealers and Workers Association, warned that a live chicken weighing 3 catties (1.8 kilograms) could cost around HK$240 ($30) during the festival.

The Chinese mainland is seeing prices rise too. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the mainland faces a 10-year low in chicken consumption, mainly due to falling domestic supply and a quarantine on domestic chickens in the face of bird flu outbreaks in the US.

Late last year, South Korea and Japan also suffered from avian influenza outbreaks, resulting in mass culls. Prices there have also risen.

Pfeiffer from City University of Hong Kong pointed to the global trend of veterinarians being more inclined to work in the market for pets rather than with livestock.

“To get vets onto farms means the farmer has to pay for the service. This is difficult for farmers, since the profit margins tend to be small. It’s therefore also down to the consumer who doesn’t want to pay more for what is produced,” he said.

A solution proposed by the Hong Kong government was the introduction of two wholesale markets — one for local chickens and the other for imported ones, thereby guaranteeing no cross-contamination. However, the plan has not come to fruition.

Another Hong Kong plan, put forward as early as 2002, is to emulate Singapore, which has centralized its poultry industry by importing live chickens and butchering them at supervised sites. However, this has also been put on the back burner due to concerns from local communities.

Singapore has even lower local production than Hong Kong, Pfeiffer said, which has made it easier for the city-state’s government to place “very high demands on anyone who imports” into the country.

“This might also be achievable in Hong Kong, and one mechanism may be to raise the standards of local production to a level that would become the benchmark for anyone who wants to import.”

Hong Kong already works closely with Chinese mainland organizations to check for possible avian flu in imported poultry. By centralizing the system, local chickens would not be culled or banned in the event of an imported disease, and vice versa.

Despite the evident demand for live, local and fresh produce in Hong Kong, however, there is a fear that production may eventually be halted entirely.

“It would be sad to lose this element of Hong Kong,” said Levy of Okra. “It is really one of the last foods produced in Hong Kong.”

Yet, tastes are changing globally. While imports of frozen chicken from major corporations into Asia are increasing, across the other side of the world, interest is shifting toward smaller, boutique production.

“In Western society we had lost the ability to differentiate (between fresh and frozen chicken), since it was all about food safety and low price,” said Pfeiffer.

“In Asia, I have discovered that there’s a difference in the flavor among different chicken types, which I didn’t even know existed. And now we’re slowly getting back to people in Europe recognizing that quality difference again, and being prepared to pay more, for example, for free-range or grain-fed chickens.”

At its root, Pfeiffer added, the popularity of local produce is founded on perceptions of better taste, higher food safety and better welfare for the animals.

“I am not sure that we will ever be able to achieve a situation where the safest food is also always the tastiest food,” he said.

Holiday puts singletons under pressure Survey shows trend of unmarried people facing nagging relatives when they return home for Spring Festival

By ZHOU WENTING in Shanghai

As millions of Chinese arrived home ahead of the Spring Festival, many single men and women were expecting a grilling from relatives, according to a survey.

A report based on an online poll of nearly 130,000 singletons nationwide shows the number who complain about parental pressure over their marital status during the Chinese new year holiday is rising.

Nearly 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women said they face such pressure, according to the 2016 Survey Report on Chinese Views of Relationships and Marriage, released by dating website Jiayuan. The figures in 2014 were 33 percent for men and 23 percent for women, it said.

“My mother, aunts, uncles and even my grandmother have helped to arrange four blind dates for me with men they believe might be a good match during the seven-day holiday,” said Lin Qing, a 33-year-old bank clerk in Shanghai.

“Sometimes they also show me photos of a neighbor my age who just got married or of one of their friends who has just become a grandmother, which is their way of telling me that I shouldn’t waste any more time.”

The survey highlights a collective anxiety among those born in the 1950s, who experienced social instabilities such as a shortage of necessities and getting laid off in their prime, according to Xue Yali, a researcher with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences’ Family Research Center.

“Because of their experiences, they dislike uncertainty for the future and are afraid that their children will suffer losses and failures,” Xue said. “They usually can’t help with their career development, and can only help to urge them to start a family.”

Another reason for the rising trend, she said, is that the topic of “leftover” men and women has had a lot of media coverage in recent years, so people feel more pressure to look for a spouse before it is too late.

The survey found that people in East China’s Jiangxi province feel the most pressure to get married, with 63 percent of both men and women complaining about the issue. The problem is also acute in the central Henan province and Anhui in the east, the report said.


“This is probably because people in these regions still hold to the conservative idea that the best age for marriage is in the early 20s, despite the fact young people are postponing marriage,” said Meng Yuan, head of public relations for Jiayuan.

The report also said the biggest turnoffs when looking for a spouse are men finding women materialistic, unreasonable or narrow-minded, and women finding men stingy, narrow-minded and lacking masculinity.

Birds of a different feather First moon landing and the end of WWII are among seminal events that changed the world during previous rooster years

By Alfred Romann in Hong Kong
For China Daily Asia Weekly

Roosters are active, fun and popular — and yet the global events marking rooster years do not always reflect these traits.

The lunar new year that begins on Jan 28 will be the Year of the Fire Rooster. The celebrations will last until Feb 15 in China. The rooster is the tenth animal in the zodiac cycle. Roosters are not only known for being full of energy, they are also honest, intelligent, flexible and confident.

Past years of the rooster have been full of strife, marked by seminal events that changed the world — from the end of World War II to the first moon landing, the beginnings of space exploration and even digital messaging.

The upcoming Year of the Rooster promises no less, with a new and controversial president in the United States, the continuation of Brexit, the ongoing economic realignment in China, the growth of the Belt and Road Initiative on the historical Silk Roads, a push to help the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reach its potential and, perhaps, a drastic change in the way globalization works.


In the Year of the Wood Rooster 2005 that started on Feb 9 and lasted until Jan 28 the following year, much of the world signed up to the Kyoto Protocol to cut down on global greenhouse gases. The US and Australia stayed out.

Activists clad in polar bear outfits hold a banner in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo, 16 February 2005, to celebrate the Kyoto Protocol. The landmark treaty requiring cuts in gas emissions causing global warming took effect 16 February with support of 141 nations. AFP PHOTO/Toru YAMANAKA / AFP PHOTO / TORU YAMANAKA

Activists clad in polar bear outfits hold a banner in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo, 16 February 2005, to celebrate the Kyoto Protocol. The landmark treaty requiring cuts in gas emissions causing global warming took effect 16 February with support of 141 nations. AFP PHOTO/Toru YAMANAKA / AFP PHOTO / TORU YAMANAKA

Indonesia was hit by its second-largest earthquake since 1965, an 8.7 magnitude event. Pakistan was also hit by a devastating earthquake. It killed 70,000 people in Kashmir and left as many injured.

In the US, George W Bush started a second term as president but it was not long before New Orleans was hit by the giant Hurricane Katrina. As much as four-fifths of the city was flooded when the levees that separated the city from Lake Pontchartrain broke. Some 1,600 people died.

In the Vatican, Pope John Paul II died and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected. He took the name Benedict XVI.

China and Russia held Peace Mission 2005, their first joint military exercise.

Chinese amphibious tanks and marines storm a beachhead in an amphibious assault drill during the third phase of the Sino-Russian 'Peace Mission 2005' joint military exercise, held in China's Shandong Peninsula, 24 August 2005. Elite troops from China and Russia staged a mock airborne attack on an enemy position as unprecedented joint exercises wrapped up as 68 Chinese and Russian shock troops parachuted into battle in northeast China's Shandong province at the end of the eight-day "Peace Mission 2005" exercise. CHINA OUT / AFP PHOTO / XINHUA / XINHUA

Chinese amphibious tanks and marines storm a beachhead in an amphibious assault drill during the third phase of the Sino-Russian ‘Peace Mission 2005’ joint military exercise, held in China’s Shandong Peninsula, 24 August 2005. Elite troops from China and Russia staged a mock airborne attack on an enemy position as unprecedented joint exercises wrapped up as 68 Chinese and Russian shock troops parachuted into battle in northeast China’s Shandong province at the end of the eight-day “Peace Mission 2005” exercise. CHINA OUT / AFP PHOTO / XINHUA / XINHUA


The European Economic Community, with 12 members, launched about three weeks before the Year of the Water Rooster 1993, which started on Jan 23 and lasted until Feb 9, 1994.

In New York, a bombing at the World Trade Center killed seven people, eight years before the devastating attacks of 2001 in the same place. Bombings in Mumbai, India, killed some 300 people.

A double-decker bus passes 16 March 1993 the crater of a 12 March bomb blast, one of a series of bombs that rocked this western port city, India. More than 300 people were killed in the blasts, which a senior police official has blamed on Bombay's criminal underworld. / AFP PHOTO / DOUGLAS E. CURRAN

A double-decker bus passes 16 March 1993 the crater of a 12 March bomb blast, one of a series of bombs that rocked this western port city, India. More than 300 people were killed in the blasts, which a senior police official has blamed on Bombay’s criminal underworld. / AFP PHOTO / DOUGLAS E. CURRAN

In Japan, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Hokkaido created a tsunami that killed 202 people on the island of Okushiri, while another earthquake in Indonesia killed 2,200.


China became the first country in the world to clone a fish during the Year of the Metal Rooster 1981, which started on Feb 5 and ran through to Jan 24, 1982.

In the US, the Space Shuttle Columbia made its maiden flight, carrying two astronauts. Russia, for its part, launched the Venera 13 spacecraft that included a lander that the craft would drop on the planet Venus in March 1982.

Pope John Paul II was shot on May 13 but survived. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was assassinated on Oct 6.

The English-language newspaper China Daily was launched.


The world looked up on July 20 when Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon, followed by Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, during the Year of the Earth Rooster 1969. The lunar new year started on Feb 17.

In October, the grandfather of today’s Internet, the network called ARPANET, was used to send messages. ARPANET became obsolete in 1989 but the concept evolved.

In popular music, the Beatles released their seminal Abbey Road album, the last that they would record together.


In China, Mao Zedong gave his famous speech, On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, that outlined his ideals to the Supreme State Conference. It was a pivotal event during the Year of the Fire Rooster 1957 that started on Feb 17.

The year was marked by a number of landmark events. Space exploration was born when Russia launched Sputnik I, the first Earth-orbiting satellite.

In the US, financial services firm Standard & Poor’s launched the S&P 500 index of stocks to replace the S&P 90.

Also this year, Britain became the world’s third nuclear power and the USSR performed an atmospheric nuclear test. In March, the Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community.

In the Philippines, President Ramon Magsaysay and 24 other people were killed when their plane crashed in Manunggal, Cebu. In April, Britain agreed to Singaporean self-rule.

The world population stood at 2.9 billion, less than half of what it is today.


The Year of the Wood Rooster started on Feb 1. It was a busy year, one that saw the end of worst conflict the world had ever seen.

Franklin D Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, the leaders of the US, Britain and Russia, attended the Yalta Conference to finalize plans to defeat Germany and end WWII.

In April, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in Berlin. In August, Roosevelt’s successor, Harry S Truman, met with Churchill and Stalin at the Potsdam Conference, marking the end of the war. Roosevelt, who had been ill for some time, died in April.

On Dec 31, the United Nations Charter was ratified.

In what may be one of the strangest attacks by nature, 980 Japanese soldiers were reportedly killed by saltwater crocodiles while hiking at night to escape Allied soldiers on Ramree Island, off the coast of Myanmar. Bombings in Tokyo killed 100,000 people.

In July, the US, Great Britain and China demanded Japan’s surrender during WWII. In August, Japan surrendered unconditionally.


Days before the start of the Year of the Water Rooster 1933 on Feb 13, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany. Less than a month later, the Nazis launched the beginnings of their campaigns — another in a series of events that would lead to WWII in 1939.

The most powerful earthquake in 180 years hit Japan. In the US, Roosevelt launched his New Deal to tackle the Great Depression that would last through the decade.

The global population stood at a little over 2 billion people.

Edwin Armstrong introduced frequency modulation, which would lead to FM radio.


The Year of the Metal Rooster 1921 was a key one for China. On July 23, the Communist Party of China was formed. Other communist parties were also formed in countries around the world, including Belgium and Spain.

The year started off on a high when the first one-stop transcontinental flight in the US arrived in Florida, having departed from California. On a more downbeat note, Japan’s Prime Minister Hara Takashi was assassinated in Tokyo.

In the US, sports fans rejoiced when the first radio broadcast of a sporting event was successfully achieved.


Japan launched an occupation of Korea that would last 36 years during the Year of the Earth Rooster 1909.

The same year, Japan and China signed the Jiandao Treaty that gave Japan railway concessions in Manchuria.

Explorers Robert Peary and Matthew Henson reportedly reached the North Pole.

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