Business / Center

A baa...d year ahead by any other name?

By Chan Kin Sang (China Daily) Updated: 2015-03-02 06:59

A baa...d year ahead by any other name?

Will investors get sheared in the financial markets? That was the compelling question as the ram ushered in the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, on Feb 19.

Eighth in the 12-animal cycle, the Year of the Ram is also often referred to as the Year of the Sheep and sometimes as the Goat. As it turns out, the Chinese character yang means all three.

This ruminant by any other name makes scant difference as the coming months are expected to pose some severe economic and financial challenges. With the Chinese economy slowing, continuing uncertainty over the strength of growth in the United States, and a debt crisis in Greece threatening to destabilize Europe, things appear decidedly woolly.

Throw into the mix the specter of a currency war after regional economies depreciated their currencies recently to steal a march on their trade rivals, and it looks increasingly like a bad year ahead for investors.

On Feb 9, China announced dismal January trade statistics, with imports slumping 19.7 percent and exports 3.2 percent from year-ago figures. Earlier it was reported that the country's manufacturing sector - a key growth driver - contracted in January for the first time in more than two years. This followed news that last year China experienced its weakest GDP growth in 24 years.

Chinese stocks are coming off their highs after having galloped away in the outgoing Year of the Horse, with the Shanghai index gaining 50 percent to become the world's best performer.

The good news for investors is that this year's wooden ram - zodiac signs follow the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire, earth - is said to bring good fortune.

It is too early to tell. But one trend seems likely to continue: Fewer Chinese babies will be born in the coming year. Parents, it seems, aren't particularly enamored of the sheep's peaceful, gentle character, viewing them as meek and malleable.

But anyone who wants proof that goats are far from sheepish needs to look no further than Premier Li Keqiang. Born in the wooden ram year of 1955, the Chinese leader is tackling the headwinds of the Chinese economy head on.

One popular Chinese idiom associated with the goat (or the sheep) is xi qi yang yang, which means to be jubilant or full of joy. On this festive occasion, therefore, may we wish all our readers xi qi yang yang, enjoy the season.

The author is editor of China Daily Asia Weekly.

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