It began around April 2011, those subtle winks and prods between couples, before slipping out early from the KTV bar with plenty of new accessories from the 7-11 counter. Lights were out across China as hopeful parents pwapped like crazy to hit the 12 month window of a dragon kid. The 17 million new babies picked to be born in the Year of the Dragon are said to possess passion, courage, luck and strength like no other, so they’re a pretty good bet for your shot at securing retirement funding. Or are they?
The new moon on 23 January 2012 will welcome in the Year of the Dragon and see another round of the largest human migration on the planet, billions of boiled dumplings, gargantuan fireworks and enough red decorations to plaster the Great Wall of China 87-times over.
While doomsayers have been stocking up on tinned asparagus in preparation for the world-ending catastrophe of 2012, the Chinese have been preparing for the biggest of their 12 zodiac years. The Year of the Dragon is the most auspicious year of the Chinese lunar cycle and the one that is associated with wealth and power.
While most of the world’s major economies splutter along, China’s blistering economic growth has businesses everywhere salivating for a piece of China’s increasingly wealthy middle class.
Everyone peddling something from adventures down the Nile River to skin-whitening face cream are redefining their strategies to get a piece of the Chinese pie. Even Porsche chose Shanghai for their world debut of the 4-door family wagon Porsche Panamera – its biggest launch in years.
But it seems ads with backdrops of Chinese skylines are for beginners, when you see the lengths the world’s biggest auto manufacturer is going to get their cars on Chinese roads…
If you were born in China post the 1979 One-Child-Policy, you’d better hope you’re a karaoke crooner or have a lot of cash. Getting a wife in China is becoming increasingly difficult.
If you’re one of those boys who does find your Chinese bride and grows old with her talking about sunsets on the Nile River, you’re one of the lucky ones. Tens of millions will be without. Yep, for every 100 boys born in China these days, there’re only 81 Chinese girls to woo. And with those ratios, it just pushes the stakes up.
Do the Chinese eat dogs? It’s one of the most popular Chinese-related searches on Google, and for 2,500 years, Chinese people have munched away on dog meat. But these days its only common in a few areas in the south … and on Chinese spacecrafts. Yep, dog meat was on the menu for the Chinese astronauts who orbited the planet in 2003. Was it served in toothpaste tubes?
In most Chinese cities you won’t see many Lassie kebabs smoking away street-side. To the contrary. There are now close to 50 organisations bursting with dog-loving Chinese dedicated to halting the culinary custom. Earlier this year dog enthusiasts blocked a highway in eastern Beijing in a bid to rescue hundreds of dogs being trucked to local restaurants. Five hours of negotiations ended when the enthusiasts bought the dogs for US$17,000. Many of the dogs were wearing collars and tags and had obviously been dog-napped.
There’s also talk of Government legislation outlawing dog for dinner, however that is likely to be as ineffective as their anti-smoking laws.
These days in China you’ll see a lot more manicured poodles than braised beagles. It seems for the growing middle class who can’t yet afford the bright orange Lamborghini, the designer pooch is the accessory of choice.
Who could possibly like green tea flavoured toothpaste? The Chinese it seems. On more than one occasion I have been wooed with different shades minty green and slogans such as “fresh blast” and “nature burst” only to discover my molars overrun with the bitter sensation of guey dried leaves.
How does pea-flavoured icecream sound?
I enjoy sipping a cup of green tea or a few peas with my mash, but I have to admit in my closed-minded western opinion, there’s a time and a place.
I cannot think of a time or a place anywhere in the world where I have found tastes more contradictory to my culinary instincts than in China.
When I was a youngster, China really scared me. I’d been told if everyone in China all jumped at the same time, the whole world would wobble. Although there hasn’t been a coordinated hop, China is without doubt, shaking up the balance of the world.
Curiosity has drawn Ellen and me to get in amongst China during this fascinating time in history. I was lucky enough to be working for an Internet company in North America during the dot-com boom, Ireland when the Celtic Tiger was roaring and New Zealand when microwave ovens were introduced, but nowhere has the rate of change been more apparent than in the Middle Kingdom. This is the biggest boom in history.
The rate of change for almost everything in China is staggering; incomes (almost 300% since 2000), car sales (32% last year), the market for art (25% last year), number of billionaires (57% last year). Even more impressive is the scale of it all – the rates are measured across 1.3 billion people! And although developing countries have a low starting point to measure growth from, significant tracts of China are long past the ‘developing’ stage. Shanghai, for example, now has a higher average GDP than parts of southern Europe.