International ties

Make Spring Festival an international holiday

By Niraj Kumar and Binod Singh (
Updated: 2011-01-20 16:02
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What follows is a personal as well as public appeal from many similar-minded international students in China, who come from India, Japan, Africa, Latin America, Europe and across the continents. The appeal is to the world community in general, and to all the national and territorial governments in particular, as well as to international organizations such as UN. It is also addressed to major universities and colleges around the world.

Dear all,

We appeal to you to consider earnestly and most sincerely declaring the Chinese Spring Festival as a festival in your country and at your organization and making it a one-day international holiday.

But this does not mean it's the only festival that should enjoy the status. Christmas, for example, is celebrated all over the world. The same can also be said of the Indian festival of lights Diwali, which is celebrated across Asia, along with 1.1 billion Indians.

Indeed, let us start by considering the huge number of people who celebrate the Chinese Spring Festival.

Spring Festival marks the beginning of the New Year on the lunar calendar. This year, Chinese people as well as ethnic minorities in China will celebrate the festival on Feb 3. More than 1.5 billion people on the Chinese mainland and Taiwan will join the celebrations, which can last for as long as a month. Millions more who live abroad or who are ethnic Chinese will do the same.

Many overseas Chinese fly back home on this occasion to be reunited with their families. It is the most important time for their family life, which they cherish as much as we do in our own countries. On the Chinese mainland, as per estimates by the railways department, there will be a movement of approximately 2.3 billion people during the one-month period.

This is the largest movement of people on the planet. It's an annual Olympics for the Chinese government, which is tested from county level to the national level in trying to ensure the safety of its people. Introduction of high-speed trains between major cities might have eased some of the burden but it’s not sufficient to transport millions of migrant laborers as well as students.

In the last decade, people of Chinese origin have been elected to world bodies such as WHO and UN. In fact, the growth of China has directly or indirectly contributed to the world community as a whole. Chinese students overseas are omnipresent, especially in America and Europe. Most of them cannot return home for the Spring Festival.

The post-imperial China under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen tried its best to incorporate major international values in terms of freedom and self-rule for its people. The May 4 movement in 1919 was a reflection of the aspirations of the Chinese people. But then, the country had its own domestic problems with warlords, and international conditions were also not favorable. China was forced to enter into unbalanced treaties, leaving its intellectuals as well as the masses disenchanted with the international powers.

When Mao Zedong established a new China in 1949 under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the major powers, except the then-Soviet Union, refused to recognize the new government and thus China was forced to live in isolation, which lasted almost 30 years.

After the economic reform in 1978, China has come to embrace the international institutions, and today it believes in the common values of humanity. Therefore it is in the interest of world peace and harmony to grant the Chinese Spring Festival international status and declare it as a one-day holiday in your respective countries and organizations. So let us join together to wish all the Chinese brothers and sisters across the world a Happy New Year! Happy Spring Festival!

Niraj Kumar is author of the book Pan-Asianism and president of the Society for Asian Integration. Binod Singh teaches at Beijing Foreign Studies University.