When you are a young kid sitting around a crowded, crackling campfire in a small, lonely American town, it is easy to feel that the hot coals flickering out from underneath a pile of six or seven chunks of firewood is enough to ward off the darkness surrounding you.
But a flickering campfire is not enough for the Chinese people when it comes to showing off their optimism for the new year. From New York to Beijing some 1.3 billion Chinese citizens set off fireworks to usher in the Year of the Dragon, part of a celebration that will last fifteen days. For the past 5,000 years fireworks have been used to ward off evil spirits in China.
This is in fact the Year of the Water Dragon, a year that signals optimism and growth, but only swings around every 60 years on the Chinese lunar calendar. Optimism will be a tricky thing to share though. No matter the hopeful astrological signals and thundering growth, members of China’s Communist Party will have to find a way to make growth not the malaise, but instead make it the treatment for episodes of China’s swelling unrest, like this recent steelworker’s strike in Sichuan province.