As the Year of Tiger closes and the Year of the Rabbit begins, Chinese people will perhaps be breathing a collective sigh of relief.
This last year has been anything but easy, and not just for China. The ongoing Russo-Ukraine war, record energy prices, and a poor economic outlook globally – with the U.S. and Europe both facing a recession, served as a comparably dismal backdrop to the surging COVID-19 rates and weak economic growth posted by China.
But with the rabbit a symbol of prosperity and longevity in Chinese culture, the New Year will represent a beacon of hope for many families.
The rabbit in Chinese astrology is traditionally associated with peace, diplomacy and moderation. ‘Rabbits’ don’t respond well to conflict and sudden change. They are, however, practical, well-organised, and will use their charm and intelligence to win their battles. They like order, control, security, discretion and privacy.
Working as a trustee perhaps makes me particularly well disposed towards the rabbit, as our essential role is to deliver peace of mind and the security offered by long-term planning.
That point about security is increasingly central to wellbeing, with even the very wealthy sometimes feeling their happiness diminishing if they are ‘kept up at night’ with fears about, for example, the safety of their loved ones, or of their assets. Indeed, the feeling of being in control of one’s life seems to be an indispensable ingredient of happiness, which transcends national borders.
As someone born and raised in China, before going on to live and work in the UK, Guernsey and Switzerland, I can also identify with this growing international mindset. In many ways, China used to be the beginning, middle and end of most residents’ world-view and economic journey – but the millennial and Gen-Z generations are increasingly citizens of the world.
The pandemic experience of recent years has hit this cosmopolitan outlook hard.
But with the early days of 2023 seeing borders reopen and families beginning to unite, green shoots for the year ahead are starting to emerge.
This is already having both an economic and emotional impact. In line with Covid-19 restrictions lifting, several projections for Chinese growth are being revised (including via The Economist Intelligence Unit), while final GDP results for 2022 have been better than expected.
While capital controls remain in place in order to encourage domestic investment and growth, there has also been a softening in the stance towards the private sector and overseas investment (and investors).
Indeed, even before the recent shift in Covid and economic policy, Switzerland in particular was firmly on China’s radar as a destination for capital and enterprise. The Swiss stock exchange (SIX) has emerged as a hugely attractive alternative to the US and UK equity markets.
As I look out of my window at the snow-covered Alps, seemingly almost within touching distance, I feel very fortunate. Switzerland was widely praised for its early handling of the Covid pandemic and continues to give regular and transparent updates on the situation – the most recent of which is available here. This update, for Chinese residents, is notable. At the time of writing, Switzerland is one of the few countries to not require a compulsory Covid test for travellers arriving from China.
Switzerland is very much putting its hand out to China in welcome, and as we look ahead to the new year, we must all hope that the early signs indicate a time more reflective of rabbit characteristics. Stability, diplomacy, peace and prosperity.
Happy Chinese New Year.