Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Welcome new year with new resolve

By Thorsten Pattberg (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-17 08:20

Everyone who has come into contact with China must probably be musing about the Spring Festival now, because it is that time of the year when more than 1 billion trips are made across the country for family reunions. Many foreigners living and working in China celebrate two "New Years" - one on Jan 1 and the other either later that month or in February.

I have completed a full zodiac circle in China. I landed in China in 2003, the Year of the Sheep, without knowing anything about the Chinese zodiac and the importance some people attach to it. In my country, Germany, we were taught little about the East, except that it was an adversary of the West. So it was only after arriving in China that I heard the Year of the Sheep (or Goat) was a "weak year" full of bad luck.

Talking about the Year of the Sheep, let us digress a bit and travel to Fudan University where I majored in Russian. The university is a silent superstar, one that has no parallel in Europe. Its unofficial campus is perhaps bigger than a Parisian suburb and houses tens of thousands of students, teachers, and non-teaching and other university employees. Life, when I first reached Fudan University, was cheap - and although my monthly stipend of $80 got me 80 meals - twice as many as the street malatang or chaomian - I still lost 16 pounds in weight in the first year from over-work and exhaustion. China was still not that significant as a world power.

Perhaps that's why when former US vice-president Dick Cheney spoke at the American Center, he generously promised China a back-row seat in world history. And not surprisingly, none of us imagined that China would replace the mighty US as the world's largest trading power after just one turn of the zodiac.

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