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Let's celebrate Chinese New Year together

Sun Xi China Plus Published: 2018-02-28 17:11:25
By Sun Xi

March 2, 2018 marks the annual Lantern or "Yuanxiao" Festival, which is the 15th day of the first month on the lunar calendar. It also marks the end of the Chinese Spring Festival season.

During the Lantern Festival, Chinese people usually reunite with their family and friends to light lanterns, enjoy watching the moon and fireworks displays, and most importantly, eat "yuanxiao," a traditional dessert of sweet glutinous rice balls. "Yuanxiao" is also called "tangyuan," which in Chinese has a similar pronunciation with "tuanyuan," meaning reunion.

Chinese lanterns and the tower of City Hall are illuminated at the Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 22, 2018.[Photo: Xinhua]

Chinese lanterns and the tower of City Hall are illuminated at the Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 22, 2018.[Photo: Xinhua]

For the past 4,000 years, Chinese people have been celebrating the Spring Festival, considered the most important traditional festival in China. Through history, the Spring Festival has been closely associated with worship and blessings.

However, today's Spring Festival has become much less religious, and is now a global festival meant to celebrate joy.

During the "Year of the Dog" festivities, celebrations have been seen all over the world, from Europe to North America, Oceania to the Middle East.

In the United Kingdom, London's Spring Festival parade of floats, golden lions and dragons and martial art performances attracted record crowds. In the United States, New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art held its annual Spring Festival events for the ninth straight year.

In Australia, Sydney now hosts the largest Lunar New Year celebration in the world outside of Asia. In the United Arab Emirates, the 2018 Dubai Spring Festival Grand Parade was record-breaking, made up of 30 different groups taking part in parades.

So why has the Chinese Spring Festival become more and more popular world-wide? China's fast-growing national power and flourishing overseas Chinese communities are two significant catalysts. At the same time, the rising influence of Chinese culture is another fundamental reason.

China is one of the four great ancient civilizations in the world, and the only one which has survived without interruption. From the "Four Great Inventions" (compass, gunpowder, paper making, printing) to the "Four Great New Inventions" (high-speed railway, e-commerce, mobile payment, sharing economy), the Chinese nation has contributed a lot to humanity's advancement. With written records dating back some 4,000 years, China has developed a rich and splendid culture.

The Spring Festival represents and advocates family unity, prosperity, joy and sharing. Those universal values are the common dreams and goals of all mankind. The growing popularity of the Chinese Spring Festival is just one sign of China's rising cultural influence.

In 2009, China's cultural influence ranked the 7th in the world, behind the US, Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain, according to a report released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Although there has been no updated ranking in recent years, China's cultural influence is believed to be growing dramatically. Here are three more signs.

First, Mandarin language learning is growing in global popularity. Statistics show that the number of foreigners learning Mandarin has more than tripled to some 100 million from the 30 million that were learning in 2004.

Second, Confucius Institutes are expanding quickly. By the end of 2017, there were 525 Confucius Institutes and 1,113 Confucius Classrooms established in 146 countries and regions around the world, teaching more than 9 million students.

Third, Chinese food is becoming even more popular. China has one of the world's finest palates. Chinese food is now considered one of the most popular cuisines in the world. Virtually every community in the US has Chinese restaurants.

Notably, those criticisms of Chinese cultural colonialism or imperialism are totally baseless and prejudiced. Because, in Chinese culture, we traditionally and strongly believe that "harmony is most precious" (yi he wei gui) and "accommodating divergent views" (he er bu tong).

China is firmly committed to global peace and development, following the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. We would like to spread friendliness, civilization and prosperity rather than hatred, ignorance and chaos.

At present, China is steadily and confidently marching towards its "Chinese Dream" -- the "great renaissance of the Chinese nation", aiming to become a moderately well-off society by 2020, a modern socialist economy by 2035, and a prosperous and strong country by 2050.

However, the "Chinese Dream" does not solely belong to the Chinese people. We believe a peaceful, friendly, and inclusive "Chinese Dream" should also be the dream of the whole world. Just like our Spring Festival, we cordially invite all our foreign friends to participate in and share in the fruits of our "Chinese Dream."

(Sun Xi is the founder and CEO of ESGuru, a Singapore-based consultancy firm specializing in environmental, social and governance issues.) 

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