China Fever Goes Global
This week, the news has been inundated with footage of people all around the world celebrating the Chinese New Year.
Today, I saw images of dragon dances and kung fu acts on the streets of London, Ontario, and Madrid.
The first thing that stuck me was how these celebrations seemed far more stereotypically 'Chinese' than celebrating New Year in the Chinese capital has ever been for me!
I've spent my fair share of Spring festivals in China, but i'm yet to see a dragon or lion dance parade through the streets of the city.
One year, we even put ourselves through the trauma of being crushed in the crowds at a temple fair in the hope of catching glimpse of the Chinese flavour that the movies and books promise.
The reality is, at Chinese New Year, the major Chinese cities drain of people. A majority of the people living in Beijing are migrant workers, who leave their homes and families behind in their hometowns to find work in the big cities.
Many of these people find employment working long hours in restaurants, or as cleaners and blue-collar workers. At Chinese New Year, these workers are eager to travel home and spend the holiday with their families, sparking China's largest annual human migration.
Just like New York, Beijing is a city that never sleeps. No matter what time of the day or night, there are people around; taxis to be hailed; and restaurants and shops open for service.
During the holidays, when the non-Beijingers set off on their grueling trips home (one colleague of mine endured a 25-hour train journey home to Sichuan province - without a seat), and the Beijingers are tucked up at home with their families, the city becomes eerily quiet.
So for me, Chinese New Year is less about the lavish street parades, and much more about an empty city, manic traveling, downtime with friends and family, and the continuous bangs of fireworks.
The popularity of the Chinese New Year celebrations around the world is no doubt a by-product of the fascination people have in the so-called newest world "superpower". Having been in China since 2007, I've witnessed first hand the enormous impact the Beijing Olympics had on China, turning the billions of people around the world into avid sinophiles. While the rest of the world drools over China's incredible potential, the Chinese people, true to their character, remain modest and humble in response to all the attention.
I, however, have watched in awe, as the influence China is having on the rest of the world is laid bare. And if you need evidence, take a look at the world market, as some of the worlds biggest brands pay homage to China's most important time of the year.
For the eleventh year running, Nike released its Chinese New Year themed shoes.
This year's theme is, of course, the Dragon. Piaget also released a special limited edition Chinese phoenix and dragon watch in December last year.
Rolls-Royce unveiled its Dragon themed Phantom Rolls-Royce series to mark the occasion - the limited edition luxury motors swiftly sold out within two months.
And if this wasn't already enough, this year even governments have gotten in on the act, with several countries producing special dragon stamps to toast the New Year.
The popularity of the Chinese spring festival is another leap in the direction of globalization.
How long will it be before Chinese New Year becomes as celebrated and commercial a festival as Christmas or Easter? At this rate, I doubt we'll have to wait long.