China welcomed the Year of the Pig on Tuesday, ushering in the Lunar New Year with prayers and family feasts as millions travelled to their villages and holiday destinations in the world's largest annual migration to rejoice the country's grandest festival. Beijing and all major cities wore a festive look but with fewer people on streets as most of the Chinese people travelled to their villages to spend time with their families or to various travel destinations for holidays.
Since Monday, China came to a grinding halt as the government declared a week-long holiday to celebrate the festival. Every year, the new year holiday marks the biggest human migration within and outside the country with millions of Chinese heading either to their villages or to holiday destinations. On Monday, the Chinese bade farewell to the Year of Dog and welcomed the Year of Pig. Pigs symbolise good fortune and wealth in Chinese culture.
In the Chinese Lunar calendar, years are grouped into a 12-year cycle, with each year assigned to an animal with symbols including rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. There is a mad scramble for air, rail and bus tickets. On the eve of the festival, top Chinese leaders make customary visits to the selected communities to spend the festival with common people.
Chinese President Xi Jinping last week visited some of the middle-income communities in Beijing and interacted with the local people. This year's Spring Festival is taking place on a sedate note amid concerns over the slowdown of the Chinese economy and impact of the trade war between China and the US. In his greetings on the eve of the festival, Xi played down concerns over the slowdown of China's economy and the trade war with the US, saying the world's second largest economy made steady progress and his government was carrying out necessary reforms to avert risks. In his speech, Xi noted that Chinese people had a hard but fulfilling year.
The Chinese economy remained steady while making progress, with new steps taken in reform and opening-up, he said. China's economy sank to a 28-year low in 2018 slowing down to 6.6 per cent year-on-year, lower than the 6.8 per cent growth registered in 2017. The slowdown continued amid the trade war with the US over President Donald Trump's demand to reduce the USD 375 billion trade deficit and protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.
The two countries are currently holding talks to reach a trade deal before the March 1 deadline set by Trump. Xi said his government has actively pushed forward campaigns to defuse major risks, carry out targeted poverty alleviation and prevent and control pollution, with poverty alleviation projects achieving remarkable outcomes. Defence and military reforms extended to a deeper level, major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics opened a new chapter and Communist Party governance further improved, he said. "Chinese society has been stable, and the people have enjoyed a stronger sense of fulfilment, happiness and security," he said.
(With inputs from agencies.)