Editorial: Happy new year!

The Year of the Pig in a wider Chinese context

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

On the occasion of the start of the Year of the Pig on Tuesday February 5th, 2019 we would like to wish all of our readers a peaceful and prosperous year ahead.

With the New Year’s celebrations marking a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel to be with their relatives, 2019’s festival marks an apt opportunity to highlight the fact that the Chinese character 家 (Jiā) meaning ‘family’ depicts a roof covering a dwelling with a pig inside.

This goes to show that in Chinese history, a pig is an important animal that is well-regarded as a symbol of a level of sufficient financial comfort.

However, as the Year of the Pig commences, this co-existence is being put under pressure in light of the African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic that has been ravaging pig farmers in rural China since August 2018. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization UN agency, 104 outbreaks have been reported across China with 950,000 pigs having been culled in order to contain the spread. This is particularly impactful in the Chinese context, where 40% of the country’s half billion pigs produced annually are drawn from smaller farms with 30 sows or fewer.

While China has greatly benefitted economically from its opening-up in recent decades, such catastrophes demonstrate the downsides of increased exposure to globalisation.

In a wide variety of ways, China’s wider outlook during the Year of the Pig will remain dependent on economic development and its relations with the rest of the world.

On that note, we would like to wish all readers 恭喜发财 or gōng xǐ fācái for the New Year!