This month, the best Chinese New Year gift for a businessman fighting the economic crisis is a toy ox — a charm for prosperity as China’s economy battles a historic low.
On Thursday, Beijing revealed that economic growth for 2008 had slipped to nine per cent, with a 6.8 per cent slowdown in the fourth quarter. Nine per cent would be one of India’s best runs. But for China, it was the lowest pace since 2001 and the first single-digit growth since 2003.
In 2007, China grew at 13 per cent and leapfrogged to become the world’s third-largest economy.
So the atheist Chinese are hoping the year of the ox will usher a change of fortune. The ox follows the rat as the second of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. It signifies prosperity through diligence and hard work.
“I sell about 15 pieces of stuffed ox every day,’” Chen Tao, who runs a closet-sized store in an eight-century-old alley, told HT. “People want an ox with the Chinese character of money and fortune on its back, as a gift for businessmen.”
While this correspondent chatted with Chen, a Chinese woman spent over 200 yuan (about Rs 1,400) on red and blue toy oxen for the New Year holiday starting on Sunday. “Let there be ox,” said a sign on the door of a bar in the historic alley.
In the building housing HT’s Beijing bureau, office-goers in business suits are seen walking with the stuffed toy with horns.
A struggling new bank branch has propped a life-size cutout of a trendy couple with ox and cow faces.
The flagging US coffee chain Starbucks hopes for prosperity with its latest China product: a stuffed ox priced at over Rs 1,100.