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Festival marks new beginning for Chinese, foreigners

Festival marks new beginning for Chinese, foreigners

BEIJING -- Global crisis or not, Chinese retained their enthusiasm for celebrating the Lunar New Year, which officially began Monday.

A man prepares fireworks at a temple to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year in Hefei, Anhui province January 26, 2009. Chinese welcomed the arrival of the Year of the Ox with raucous celebrations on Sunday despite gloom about the economy, setting off firecrackers in the streets and sending fireworks into the sky. [Agencies]

More than 68 tonnes of fireworks debris were collected on the eve of the Spring Festival in Beijing alone.

Beijingers also went on a 639 million yuan (about US$85.2 million) shopping spree, spending 13.4 percent more than last year.

Not only did 1.3 billion Chinese bask in the festive atmosphere, some foreign nationals shared their feelings. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday sent a message in Chinese, which read: "Happy New Year to the Chinese people and all the ethnic Chinese all over the world."

Foreigners who chose to stay in China during the festival didn't need to prepare for family feasts, so many set off on domestic trips or found ways to enjoy folk culture.

Migrant Workers' Wish

For Huang Teng, 20, from a village in central Hunan Province, the term "economic crisis" has become only too familiar.

Passengers stream into the railway station in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong province Monday, January 12, 2009. China's transportation system is already burdened by students and migrant workers returning home for the traditional Spring Festival holiday. [Xinhua]

He left Nanling Village and found work in a precision machinery factory in the southern Guangdong Province three years ago, after he graduated from middle school.

Huang was earning 2,000 yuan a month when he was laid off three months ago. "The factory closed because of the economic crisis," he said.

Statistics from the Hunan Labor and Social Security Bureau showed that 70 percent of the province's 9.6 million rural people worked in Guangdong. The bureau predicted that more than 1 million workers would lose their jobs around the Spring Festival.

Huang had big dreams of starting his own business. He applied for study in a technical training center. He believed in the Chinese saying that "sharpening your ax will not delay your job of cutting wood."

He found many business owners had been migrant workers. For Huang, his New Year's wish is to open a lighter factory, which would help him earn money and provide jobs for his neighbors.

Hunan announced several policies before the Spring Festival, including free technology training for migrants and low-rate loans for entrepreneurs.

Foreigners' Great Expectations

Monday was more than Lunar New Year's Day. It was also India's 60th Republic Day.

"Double festivals bring double happiness," 41-year-old Arvind Chandak, chief executive officer of India Aurobindo Biopharmaceuticals, said Monday. Arvind stayed in Shanghai for the holidays. He has lived in the financial hub for 15 years ago, and he's always spent Spring Festival in China, sometimes traveling around to see different festival folk cultures.

Locals perform folk dances celebrating the Spring Festival in Pengzhou, a quake-hit city of southwest China's Sichuan Province, Jan. 25, 2009. [Xinhua]

Five years ago, Aurobindo spent 800 million yuan to set up a pharmaceutical factory in north Shanxi Province. Exports reached US$80 million in 2008.

"Although China is not at ground zero of the financial crisis, the Chinese government has shown deep concern for the impact of the crisis," said Arvind. He added that the government has provided a lot of help in employee training and low energy prices, which makes him feel confident.

He told Xinhua that his enterprise will try to achieve US$100 million in exports this year and increase investment in China in the next three years.

In Shanghai, Indian Consul-General Riva Ganguly Das said that China has become India's biggest trade partner.

"China and India are strongly complementary, and together we can turn the economic slowdown into a cooperation opportunity," said Riva.

From: China Daily 2009-1-27

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