Chinese hope for bullish Year of the Ox

Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:06am EST
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By Lucy Hornby

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese celebrated the Lunar New Year Monday with hopes that the Year of the Ox will be more bullish than disaster-stricken 2008.

"Goodbye to the snows of 08, the quake of 08, the pain of 08, the bitterness of 08; May 2009 be bullish for you," read one greeting sent by text message at midnight, as fireworks exploded across the nation in a raucous welcome to the New Year.

The Year of the Rat was not a good one for China, despite high hopes for the Olympic games hosted in Beijing in August. Ice storms interrupted the last Lunar New Year, Tibetans staged a brief but widespread uprising, tainted milk sickened thousands of babies and a slowing economy heralded heavy job losses.

In Sichuan, where a devastating May 12 earthquake killed more than 80,000 people, some survivors put on a brave face.

"We've cobbled together a new house. It's not too bad," said Liu Shaoyun, whose nephew was killed when his school dormitory collapsed in Muyuzhen, in northeastern Sichuan. "It's a little cold, but what can you do?"

Premier Wen Jiabao this weekend visited villagers, factory workers, and children across the quake zone, urging victims to keep up their spirits and move forward.

The economy is a more immediate worry for most Chinese, as a real estate slump at home and drop in export demand from abroad have caused factories to close and businesses to cut bonuses.

Many migrant workers, whose remittances sustain the rural economy, are now home for the New Year but could have trouble finding jobs when they return to the cities next month.   Continued...

<p>Performers dressed in traditional costume dance while holding each other during a show celebrating Chinese New Year at Longtan Park in Beijing, January 25, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray</p>