HSBC Chinese New Year - Ox

Week in China started its reviews of the year ahead under the Chinese zodiac 12 years ago, beginning with the Year of the Ox. There are 12 animals in the zodiac, so we have come full circle.

Your Chinese zodiac sign is derived from the lunar year in which you were born. In the case of the Year of the Ox – which begins on February 12 – you are an Ox if you were born in 1949, 1961, 1973 or any 12 years before 1949 or after 1973.

Back in our debut issue in February 2009, we pointed out that the Ox is thought to be a calmer personality than its predecessor in the calendar, the Rat. The Year of the Shu (Rat) is often plagued by natural disasters and financial problems. Looking back that rings true, with the outgoing year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and shrinking economies around the world.

Already, there seem to be similarities between the last cycle of the calendar and the newest one. The previous Year of the Ox in 2009 saw the newly-elected Barack Obama – who also happens to be born under the Ox zodiac sign – pass an $831 billion stimulus package to rescue the country’s economy after the global financial crisis. This time round, the newly inaugurated 46th president Joe Biden is promising a $1.9 trillion relief package to help the US get back on its feet after the pandemic.

If history is any guide, the business sector can look forward to a brighter year. In Ox Year 1997, the late Steve Jobs returned to Apple after it bought his PC and software firm NeXT. Jobs would go on to turn Apple into what is now the world’s most valuable company, with 1997 marking one of the great inflection points in corporate history. Apple’s market capitalisation back then had fallen to about $5 billion. Now it is approaching $2.5 trillion.

Another dramatic turning point in the Ox Year of 2009 saw China launch a Rmb4 trillion stimulus to lift its own economy out of the doldrums, helping to catapult its GDP beyond Japan’s. In fact, Years of the Ox have often been meaningful ones for China as a country. In 1949, another Ox Year, the Communist Party took control of the country, ending the civil war against Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang, which fled to Taiwan. Mao Zedong then announced the creation of the People’s Republic of China.

Those born under the zodiac are said to be hardworking, earnest and responsible. They don’t mind routines and dislike breaking rules. However, on the downside Oxen are said to be stubborn and headstrong.

Some of the famous people born in the Year of the Ox are:

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750): German composer and musician of the Baroque period and generally regarded as one of the great composers in Western musical history.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2003): the first woman to become prime minister of Britain between 1979 and 1990. Said by her colleagues to be extremely stubborn, but also exceptionally hardworking.

Zhang Ruimin

Zhang Ruimin (born 1949): the tycoon turned Haier from a little-known refrigerator manufacturer – on the brink of bankruptcy – into the world’s largest white appliances company. Haier now has a market capitalisation of Rmb214.4 billion.

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep (born 1949): the prolific actress has been nominated for a record 21 Academy Awards, of which she has won three, and a record 33 Golden Globe nominations, winning nine.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (born 1961): the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017 and the first African American to hold that office.

Li Bingbing

Li Bingbing (born 1973): the actress first rose to fame in the 1999 film Seventeen Years. Since then, she’s starred in Hollywood blockbuster films such as Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) and The Meg (2018).

Gal Gadot

Gal Gadot (born 1985): before she was known for her role as Wonder Woman in the blockbuster film, the actress was crowned Miss Israel in 2004.

Wang Yibo

Wang Yibo (born 1997): the former boyband member became one of the biggest names in Chinese showbusiness after appearing in the 2019 hot summer web series The Untamed.

Zhong Huijuan (born 1961): former chemistry teacher became the world’s richest self-made woman after founding the publicly-traded Chinese drug maker Hansoh Pharmaceutical.

Li Bai (701-762): arguably one of the three most famous and prolific Chinese poets in history, with around a thousand poems attributed to this Tang Dynasty poet. Many of his poems still appear in Chinese school texts today, for instance this one which we have translated:

静夜思 “Homesick in deepest night”

At my bed’s head, a pool of white moonlight.
In a moment of doubt, I take it for frost.
My head lifts to follow its light to the moon;
Drifts down again to follow my heart home.



(Translation by Heather Skye Irvine)


Week in China is now in its 13th year of keeping its readers up to date on the news coming out of the world’s fastest-growing large economy. We review what is being said in the media in China and overseas, giving you brief, meaningful insights on the headline stories in business, the economy and Chinese society.

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