Talking Point

Monkey magic

Where is the money to be made in China’s Year of the Monkey?

monkey knife fight

If you bet against this monkey, bring a knife to the fight...

This Sunday Chinese state broadcaster CCTV will host the extravagant Spring Festival Gala. Every Chinese New Year’s Eve it airs the five-hour programme, incorporating comedy sketches, a lot of singing and even more dancing. In 2012 the gala actually beat the Academy Awards and the Super Bowl to set a Guinness World Record for the most watched entertainment show. But in spite of its high viewing figures, the programme rarely escapes derision online for its unique blend of commercialism, flaccid content and outlandish costumes (see WiC225).

But even before the gala goes on air this year to celebrate the Year of the Monkey it has already stoked controversy. Step forward Kang Kang, the monkey-like mascot that CCTV unveiled last week as part of the annual show. Almost instantly the country’s legions of social media users poked fun at its “ridiculous design”.

While Kang Kang’s name translates as ‘healthy’ or ‘prosperous’ in Chinese, it hardly looks an epitome of wellbeing. Internet users lambast the mascot for being ugly and appearing to suffer from both jaundice and chemical poisoning (its face is painted green and yellow). Some jokily compared Kang Kang to a traffic light that had “gone mad”. Less charitably critics said it was humiliating that CCTV could get it so wrong, given that one of China’s most fabled characters is none other than the Monkey King from the classic novel Journey to the West.

If CCTV was getting a rough time even before the Year of the Monkey had formally begun, what does it hold for the rest of us? Which of the 12 Chinese zodiacs will come out swinging in the next 12 months and who might slip on a banana peel?

Who are some of the famous Monkeys?

Those who are born in the Year of the Monkey (i.e in 1956, 1968, 1980, or any year 12 years before or after) are often believed to be smart, flexible and ambitious, and can adapt to the changing environment quickly. Historical figures like Julius Caesar and Leonardo Da Vinci were some of the most famous Monkeys; so too is reality TV queen Kim Kardashian (who knew you could get Kardashian and Da Vinci into the same sentence).

However, being born a Monkey might not bring much luck in the year ahead (the Lunar New Year begins February 8). Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daily reckons that Monkeys should avoid gambling and speculative investments this year or they will risk losing everything. Celebratory events like weddings and birthday parties can be used as counterbalances to improve their poor fortunes.

Pigs, too, should brace themselves for what could be a difficult year ahead, warn the soothsayers at Shin Min Daily News. Those who are born in the Year of the Pig (1959, 1971, 1983) can seek to turn things around by keeping their heads down and staying positive, says Mak Ling-ling, a feng shui master in Hong Kong. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, a Pig, should take heed (though she probably got the memo after her razor-thin victory at the Iowa caucuses).

Those born in the Year of the Tiger (1962, 1974, 1986) may also find the going tough – since that sign is said by some feng shui masters to clash with the Monkey.

Who are the lucky ones?

Rabbit (1963, 1975, 1987) is the most auspicious zodiac in the coming Chinese new year, suggests Shin Min Daily News. Their luck will be so good that Rabbits’ biggest problem may be the jealousy of others: “At work there are people that are going to help advance your career. Make sure you take advantage of the opportunities. Be humble and watch your actions because some people might be jealous. Maintain good relationships with others.”

Similarly, those who are born in the Year of the Snake (1953, 1965, 1977) should look forward to a rewarding 2016. Surrounded by many lucky stars, singletons might meet their significant other. Financially, this is also going to be a very rewarding period but Snakes should still be conservative with their investments, says Apple Daily. That’s good news for President Xi Jinping, a Snake, as he tackles the economy’s slowing rate of growth.

Those born in the Year of the Rat (1960, 1972, 1984) should also have a rewarding year financially – but with the caveat that they too should avoid casinos.

Will the Monkey year be marked by economic mischief?

Since Monkeys are very energetic and vibrant, stock markets are predicted to behave in similar fashion. Hong Kong Economic Journal reports that in the past three Monkey years Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Sang Index posted positive gains. Feng shui practitioner Su Minfeng expects the stock market to continue its current downtrend but to go back up after August and end the year on a high note.

Analyst Lu Dong concurs: “There might be some volatility but nothing too dramatic,” he told Sing Tao Daily. Nevertheless, he warns that given the risk of deflation, investors should shy away from stocks and property and stick with bonds instead.

In the meantime, this being a ‘fire Monkey’ year, those industries that relate to fire – like energy and entertainment – will thrive. Water conquers fire so water-related industries – such as shipping and banking – will likely outperform this year, says Raymond Lo, another feng shui master. Macau’s battered gaming industry, which is related to the water element, might benefit too from some monkey charm.

Property developers might also find some relief this year given that industries relating to the ‘earth’ element are in favour. Already, China’s property market has shown some signs of life: prices of new homes in the 100 biggest cities rose an average of 4.4% year-on-year in January, the sixth straight month of gains and the fastest growth since August, says property research house China Real Estate Index System. Oriental Daily News also reports that there has been an uptick in transactions in third- and fourth-tier cities, where oversupply has been a major problem.

Monkey without the ‘k’ spells ‘money’…

Forgetting feng shui and looking at fundamentals, an industry that may go ‘bananas’ in the year ahead: baby-care. China is expecting a baby boom this year after the government ended the One-Child Policy last October. Some couples avoided getting pregnant during the Year of the Sheep – 16.5 million babies were born in the country last year, or 320,000 fewer than in 2014 – because Sheep babies are linked to bad luck. Some analysts predict more Chinese couples are likely to try and conceive this year.

Already, the National Health and Family Planning Commission expects the number of newborns this year to rise to at least 21 million. Merck, the German drugmaker, says sales of fertility-related medications have risen since late last year as couples sought to expand their families after the lunar new year.

Anticipating the increase in deliveries, the Beijing Maternity Hospital is enlarging its emergency ward by 30% and hiring more nurses, says the Global Times. Similarly, Harmonicare, China’s largest private obstetrics and gynaecology hospital group, has been expanding to accommodate the increase in pregnancies.

“We expect the number of pregnant women to go up. A lot of families have postponed until the year is over to get pregnant,” Harmonicare’s Chen Wei told Tencent Finance.

So it seems there is one cast iron prediction for the year ahead: expect more monkeying around in the bedroom…

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