Welcome to the David Victor Vector Blog

Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Year of the Green Wood Horse: Business and Political Impact

Friday, January 31 marks the start of the Asian Lunar New Year  or Chinese New Year. It is the beginning of the year 4711 (in some traditions, 4712) in the Chinese system, which is the Year of the Green Wood Horse

This post is one of a series of four posts discussing the Asian Lunar New Year in general and the Year of the Horse in particular. In this blog, though,  we will look at some of the business impact of the event.  

Please look at the other three posts as well. These are 

1)  One Year, Many Traditions: Lunar New Year Customs Around the World:  at http://davidvictorvector.blogspot.com/2012/01/one-new-year-many-traditions-lunar-new.html

2)  Year  of the Horse on the specifics of fortune and beliefs about this year's animal sign at 

3) List of 145 Year of the Horse Festivals from 26 countries outside East Asia including 55 in the United States, 23 in Canada, 18 in the United Kingdom, 13  in Australia,  and 8 in France with the others spread across the globe at http://davidvictorvector.blogspot.com/2014/01/year-of-horse-celebrations-around-world.html

You may also be interested to compare this year's overview of the business impact to that of last year's  Year of the Snake or 2012's Year of the Dragon. Those posts are at 

Snake: http://davidvictorvector.blogspot.com/2013/01/year-of-snake-business-impact_22.html

Dragon: http://davidvictorvector.blogspot.com/2012/01/year-of-dragon-business-impact.html

For this post, though, we will limit the subject ot the business impact of the Year of the Horse.

Business Impact

World's Busiest Travel Day -- The Asian New Year

Over 3.45 billion trips were made in the PRC in 2013
during the Chinese New Year season
The Asian New Year is arguably the most widely celebrated holidays on the planet, whatever the year. Because the celebration generally means that families gather together, the holiday is annually the single busiest travel day. The great movement of people is known in Chinese as Chunyun or the "Spring Movement."

In the PRC alone, during 2013's Chinese New Year season, the nation recorded 3.42 billion trips representing more than three trips per person during a 12-day period.   This number has been steadily rising.  In 2011, a mere 2.556 billion passenger trips took place. In 2012, there were 3.2 billion trips during the Chinese New Year and in 2013, there were 3.42 billion. 

This year, 2014, the Chinese government for the first time since 2007 has not included the eve of Chinese New Year as an official holiday. Because Chinese New Year Eve is a time of eating together as an extended family (a sort of parallel can be found in the USA's Thanksgiving), this has resulted in widespread dissatisfaction. A poll by China's Sina Weibo (the microblog firm that is a sort of Chinese counterpart to Twitter), nearly 89% of respondents indicated that they were unsatisfied with the decision not to include Chinese New Year Eve as an official holiday. 

The result of this will be that the official start of the season will fall on  Lunar New Year's Day itself -- January 31 --  and end on February 6. That said, the actual travel rush unofficially begins about 15 days ahead of time, so the travel will begin to spike as early as January 15. People return home over a greater spread, meaning that while the season actually ends after one week, return trips spread over the next 20-25 or so days.
Wuhan train station during Chunun travel rush

In practical terms, this will mean that the travel crush will be even more compressed with one less travel day. The Chinese Ministry of Transport estimates that 3.2 billion of the trips will made by road this year, up slight from 3.1 billion in 2013. The road traffic annually clogs the traffic ways of the country and seriously affects the supply chain for business as well as demand for fuel, hotel space, and restaurants. 

The Chinese Ministry of Transport estimates an increase in water transport as well. They estimate that there will be 43 million boat trips in 2014, an increase of 1.1% from 2013.
  China will agaiin employ  900,000 buses over the period, averaging 80 million passengers a day. In addition to regularly scheduled trains and planes, a further 700 trains and 14,000 extra flights have been scheduled during the travel crush. 

Chinese New Year ticket buyers at Harbin train station
In 2013, tickets to most Chinese cities sold out in 20 seconds
The demand for tickets for rail is particularly high.   For example, last year on January 15 alone -- the first day that tickets were open for sale for the Chinese New Year -- China Rail service sold over 300,000 tickets. All seats on routes to China's major cities sold out in approximately 20 seconds.  The PRC government estimates that on two of these days alone -- February 6 and 7 -- 980,000  people used the train service in China. This is equivalent to over three times the entire population of the United States.

Precious Metal Coins and Stamps for the Year of the Horse

Traditional Issuers
Singapore Mint set
for Year of the Horse

Also affected by the Year of the Horse is the demand for precious metals. Since the Lunar New Year is a time of gift-giving, many governments issue precious metal collectors' coins.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, for instance, annually issues a series of Lunar New Year coins, with nine version available for the Year of the Horse ranging from a 20-gram copper-nickel version   to a 5 troy ounce, 999.9 fine gold coin.  All nine versions bear the same image of a running horse, a peony (symbol of blessing and good fortune) and appropriate Chinese characters. 
Singapore "puzzle set" Lunar New Year coin

For the first time this year, Singapore will also be introducing a "puzzle set" coin made of 999 fine silver. The "puzzle set" consists of a central peony to which interlock the twelve zodiac animals with images from the previous zodiac series.
Perth Mint of Australia's Year of the Horse
 gold coin with colored highlights

The Perth Mint of Australia for the Year of the Horse has issued a 99.9% pure gold coin, a 99.9% pure silver coin, as well as a gold coin with colored highlights, a silver coin with colored highlights and a silver coin with a golden horse. In all coins, the obverse side depicts Queen Elizabeth II. 

Fiji Year of the Horse coin with central red pearl

The government of Fiji has also issued a Year of the Horse  commemorative coin enhanced by gemstone, it this case a silver coin with three 24-karat gold horses racing around a central red pearl (symbolizing the red pearl of wisdom). Fiji also has issued a silver coin with a filigree stylized modern art horse image and a yin-yang interlocking silver coin featuring a colorized horse at its center.

The Canadian government has issued six new Year of the Horse coins in its Lunar New Year series. These range from a 1/2 ounce silver coin to a 1 kilogram 99.9% pure gold coin (with a face-value alone of CAN $2500.00).

Royal Canadian Mint's Year of the Horse coin series
In addition to those of Singapore, Australia, Fiji and Canada, special Year of the Horse gold coins have been issued (as in years past) by the People's Bank of China, the Japan Mint, the New Zealand Mint, the French Monnaie de Paris, the Mint of Laos, the National Bank of Ukraine, the Mint of Kazakhstan, the Macau Mint, the Mint of the British Virgin Islands and the Mints of the tiny Pacific nations of Niue, of Tuvalu, and of the Cook Islands as well as the New Zealand protectorate of Tokelau. By contrast, neither Finland nor North Korea issued commemorative coins this year, although did so last year for the Year of the Snake.

New Coin Issuers

Finally, five new nations have struck commemorative Lunar New Year coins for the first time in 2014. These are the United Kingdom, Belarus, and Rwanda  as well as the small Pacific island nation of Palau and the semi-autonomous republic of Trans-Dneister. Three of these are featured here.
The Year of the Horse, 2014 Royal Mint Lunar New Year
coin is the UK's first-ever such commemorative issue

This year is the first in which the Royal Mint of the United Kingdom has issued commemorative Lunar New Year coins. The Royal Mint has indicated that this will become an annual issuance from now on. The coins come in various denominations of silver and gold proof. The Year of the Horse coin features Queen Elizabeth on the obverse and a front design by the Chinese-British artist Wuon-Gean Ho which combines a modern horse running over the image of the pre-historic Uffington Horse carved into the chalk hills of Oxfordshire.

Rwanda's entry into the Lunar New Year coin field features three silver versions with  pavé work over three-dimensional horse images. This marks the first such commemorative series to come from and African nation.

Rwanda's Year of the Horse coin, 2014
is he first ever from an African nation

The Belarus coin comes in one denomination only: 92.5% pure silver. The coin features both a horse and the working of a clock, enhanced with Swarovski crystal with Cyrllic and Chinese writing.
Belarus' first Lunar New Year coin, 201

Postage Stamps
Issuing Lunar New Year commemorative postage stamps has become an annual tradition in many countries, and an entire philatelic tradition of collecting these special issues has a wide following both in and outside of Asia.

The United States is a relative newcomer to the Lunar New Year stamps, with the Year of the Snake stamp for 2014 the seventh it has issued. This year's Year of the Horse US stamp is a "Forever" stamp (to accommodate postal rate increases). It features traditional Chinese New Year drums with drumsticks painted red (the color of luck) and decorated with peonies (for blessing and good fortune). The Year of the Horse is acknowledged through  a paper-cut horse by Chinese American folk artist Clarence Lee  and the character for “Horse,” done in grass-style by calligrapher Lau Bun (both of whose work has decorated all six of the previous Lunar New Year USPS stamps).

Canada Post's domestic stamp
for the Year of the Horse
Canada Post traditional issues a pair of stamps for each lunar new year, one for domestic and one for international use. This year's domestic stamp features a domestic stamp with a red horse and the international stamp a gold foil embossed horse. Both are on a white background with "Year of the Horse" written in French, English and Chinese, and both were designed by the Montreal-based Paprika Graphic Design firm.
China Post stamp
Year of the Horse, 2014

The People's Republic of China's Year of the Horse China Post stamp for 2014 features a Tang dynasty white porcelain horse decorated with the peonies of good fortune.. 

Liechtenstein's Year of the Horse
laser-cut horse-shaped stamp sheet
One of the most elaborate stamp issues for the 2014 Year of the Horse is that of Liechtenstein. The stamp is an intricate silhouette cut using a laser. Additionally, the stamp comes on a sheet of four in which the sheet itself is shaped liked a horse.

Among other special issue postage stamps are those from Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Christmas Island, Croatia, France, Guernsey Islands, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Macau, Montserrat, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.

Year of the Horse Special Issue Products
Because the Lunar New Year is a time of gift-giving, many companies have introduced Year of the Horse items for that purposed.
Rolls Royce Ghost
with Horse on glovebox

At the highest end of the market, the British luxury carmaker Rolls Royce released a new Year of the Horse commemorative automobile in its Ghost line. The car  features horse imagery subtly on its exterior near the front door, and more prominently featured on its leather interior and wooden dashboard. 

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art
Year of the Horse watches
The Swiss luxury watchmaker Vacheron Constantin released a Year of the Horse watch in its Métiers d’Art Collection. The watches come in either platinum or rose gold,  in an issue of only 24 watches.  The Italian watchmaker Panerai Luminor Sealand also has released a Year of the Horse watch, though with a limited edition of just 100 units. The watch features a flip-cover lid with an elaborate golden horse decoration. Other luxury watchmakers with Year of the Horse designs include Chopard, Ulysses Nardin, Jacquet Droz and Piaget. 

Other Year of the Snake jewelry special releases from top luxury jewelry lines include Boucheron, Hermes, and Lugano Diamonds. All of these are high-priced pieces ranging in cost from just over US$1000 to approximately US$50,000.  

Swatch Year of the Horse watch
Additionally, on the more affordable side, both the Swiss company Swatch and the US jewelry line Heidi Daus have introduced Year of the Horse watches as well.  Other fine jewelry from somewhat less exclusive lines are featured by Tiffany's and Juicy Couture. 

Shanghai Tang's
Year of the Horse
tangram cuff links
Additionally, China's own Shanghai Tang design firm has introduced a whole line of Year of the Horse products. These include, tangram-design horse cuff links, silver horse cuff links, sliver equine book-ends,  horse-topped wine bottle stoppers and horse-themed luxury chopsticks. 

Gucci's Year of the Horse offerings
The Italian designer Gucci is introducing a bright-red "China exclusive" bags with equestrian-inspired clasps for the Year of the Horse. Designer Carolina Herrera has also introduced a bag in red (the New Year color) with a gold equine design. 

Along the same lines, the French luxury goods maker Longchamp has issued a handbag for the Year of the Horse featuring a golden horse racing onto a red leather hand bag. Stussy Japan, in turn, has jointly released with Japan's JAM Home Made Products a horse-themed wallet, clutch and bracelet series for the Year of the Horse. Fiinally, at the more economically-priced end of the market, the US retailer Bloomingdale's has introduced its own Year of the Horse tote bag.

In clothing, the US-based DKNY is offering a 16-piece Year of the Horse collection including dresses, designer tops and a purse.  Italy's Armani (through Armani Exchange) on a smaller level has issued a men's and a women's Year of the Horse designer T-shirts.
Some of DKNY's Year of the Horse 16-piece collection

EVISU's Year of the Horse jeans
The Japanese jeans maker EVISU has introduced a Year of the Horse 500-pair limited edition set of high-end jeans. These feature riding features and horse-themed designs, such as a horse on the coin pocket. 

Cross Year of the Horse pen
Smaller items that are regularly given as gifts are also themed with Year of the Horse motifs. Along this line, the US pen maker Cross has issued a highly detailed Year of the Horse red (the New Year color) pen set with a horse motif engraved in 23 karat gold. 

Montegrappa Year of the Horse pen
On the higher end of the writing utensil market, the Italian luxury pen company Montegrappa is offering a limited edition of Year of the Horse pens with either a silver horsehead clip or a gold equine themed overlay. 
S. T. Dupont
Year of the Horse lighter

At the highest end of the pen gift entries is $16,000 golden horsehead fountain pen from the French luxury goods maker S. T. Dupont. The company also offers a gold horse cigarette lighter for $13,900. 

The US cigarmaker Davidoff has introduced a string of Year of the Horse cigar accessories. These include limited horse-themed issues of humidors, cigar cutters, ashtrays, cigar cases and lighters. All of these accompany its debut of its newest cigar brand: the Horse Gran Toro cigar. 
 Moleskine and Shanghai Tang's
Year of the Horse notebook
Similarly, the Italian designer notebook company Moleskine has once again teamed up with the Chinese fashion firm Shanghai Tang to issue another in its Chinese Zodiac Feng Shui diaries and notebooks. Their Year of the Horse Feng Shui diary and notebooks features a pattern of horses over a traditional Song Dynasty tangram puzzle pattern.

Nike's Year of the Horse
Flightposite shoe
Several sportswear makers have released Year of the Horse shoes and sportswear outfits. Converse, Adidas, New Balance, Reebok, Puma and Nike have all issued Year of the Horse shoes. For Nike, this year represents the beginning of its second Zodiac cycle, having completed its first 12-year cycle with last year's Year of the Snake release. 
Estee Lauder's
Year of the Horse
cosmetics case

In another range of products, the US-based Clarisonic is offering a Year of the Horse Plus Sonic Skin Cleansing system. Similarly, both Australia's Eles Cosmetics and the US-based Mon Ennui Cosmetics are offering a limited edition Year of the Horse influenced cosmetics line. Likewise, the US-based Estee Lauder has released a Year of the Horse cosmetics case. 

Diageo's limited edition
White Horse Gold Edition 1890 Scotch
Finally, several more consumable items have been released in special Year of the Horse limited editions. The Belgian-based Godiva, for instance, sells chocolates in Year of the Horse gift boxes. The UK-based Diageo has released a limited edition White Horse Gold Edition 1890 blended Scotch Whiskey available only to international travelers and then only between January and June 2014.

These represent just some of the Year of the Horseproducts that will come out in honor of the Lunar New Year. If you have others, please do add them in the comments to this blog.

Political and Business Behavioral Impact
Because so many people believe in the influence of the zodiac sign, it has an effect on how people approach business and politics. People are influenced by whether or not they are born under the sign (making it propitious or not). In year's past (for example, the Year of the Dragon), people plan to have children as a propitious year is indicated or hold off having children if it is a less fortunate time.

Korean President Park Geun-Hye
This influence is even seen in the political spectrum. As one of many examples, South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye addressed her nation in her first speech of 2014 with a reference to the Year of the Horse, opening with the words:

"Fellow Koreans, New Year 2014, the Year of the Blue Horse, has begun. I wish you all a year full of hope and the energy of a galloping horse.   http://www.mofa.go.kr/webmodule/htsboard/template/read/engreadboard.jsptypeID=12&boardid=14195&seqno=313227&c=&t=&pagenum=1&tableName=TYPE_ENGLISH&pc=&dc=&wc=&lu=&vu=&iu=&du=
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
President Park's reference to the Lunar New Year is typical of East Asian leaders at this time of the year.  

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi similarly referred to the Year of the Horse in an address to foreign journalists on the coming new year, concluding his speech with

The Chinese New Year of the Horse is around the corner. In Chinese tradition, the "horse" symbolizes diligence and progress. In the upcoming year, we will continue to advance reform and opening-up and open a new prospect for China's diplomacy. I look forward to your continued support and assistance! http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjdt/zyjh/t1110231.shtml

This, in other words, not an isolated oddity. Nor are such references limited just to this year. For example, last year in a press conference on January 6, 2013, Japan's (at that time) new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said:
We want a rocketlike start toward economic recovery...The Year of the Snake symbolizes prosperous business. This administration will unite to boost the economy 
Shinzo Abe  
The point of all of this is to emphasize that the importance of the lunar calendar and its animal cycle should be taken seriously.

As with all of my posts on this blog, this is meant only to give the view of one person (me). There are far more expert writers than myself... this is just a taste. 

Gung Hay Fat Choy! (May prosperity be with you!)
Further Reading

Brittany Hite, "China's 2014 Holiday Schedule: Still Complicated," Wall Street Journal - China, December 12, 2013, http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2013/12/12/chinas-2014-holiday-schedule-still-complicated/

CRI English, "China's Road Passengers Up During 'Chunyun'," December 24, 2014: http://english.cri.cn/6909/2013/12/24/2361s804908.htm

Jonathan Kaiman, "China's 2014 official holiday schedule misses out Lunar New Year's Eve," The Guardian, December 23, 2013,  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/23/china-2014-official-holiday-schedule-lunar-new-year-eve

Abe Sauer, "Year of the Horse: Brands Go Hay-Crazy for Chinese Zodiac," Brand Channel, January 10, 2014,. http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2014/01/10/140110-Year-Of-The-Horse.aspx

Gavin Van Hinsbergh, "Chinese Spring Festival 2014," China Highlights, http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/

Cheng Yingqi, "Agency releases 2014 holiday plan," China Daily, December 12, 2013, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-12/12/content_17168684.htm

Clip Art Sources

Opening Year of the Horse image: http://7428.net/2013/11/2014-year-of-the-horse-vector.html

Wuhan train station during Chunun travel rush: Christian Science Monitor, January 30, 2013: http://www.csmonitor.com/Photo-Galleries/In-Pictures/China-s-chun-yun-peak-travel-season#250370

Singapore Mint set for Year of the Horse: http://www.mas.gov.sg/news-and-publications/press-releases/2013/mas-launches-2014-year-of-the-horse-chinese-almanac-coins.aspx

Singapore "puzzle set" Lunar New Year coin: http://www.mas.gov.sg/news-and-publications/press-releases/2013/mas-launches-2014-year-of-the-horse-chinese-almanac-coins.aspx

Perth Mint of Australia's Year of the Horse gold coin with colored highlights: http://www.perthmint.com.au/catalogue/australian-lunar-series-ii-2014-year-of-the-horse-gold-proof-coloured-editions.aspx

Fiji Year of the Horse coin with central red pearl: http://www.govmint.com/2014-fiji-1-oz-silver-year-of-the-horse-pearl-proof.html

Royal Canadian Mint's Year of the Horse coin series:http://www.coinnews.net/2013/08/20/2014-year-of-the-horse-coins-from-royal-canadian-mint/

The Year of the Horse, 2014 Royal Mint Lunar New Year coin is the UK's first-ever such commemorative issue: http://horsetalk.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/year-of-horse-coins.jpg

Rwanda Year of the Horse coin:  http://www.topworldcoins.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/350x/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/r/w/rwanda-2014-500-francs-pave-setyear-of-the-horse-proof-silver-coin_set_r_1.png

Belarus' first Lunar New Year coin, 2014: http://agaunews.com/new-release-eastern-european-year-of-the-horse-coins/

Year of the Horse 2014 US postage stamp: https://store.usps.com/store/browse/productDetailSingleSku.jsp?productId=S_587104&categoryId=subcatS_S_Sheets

Canada Post's domestic stamp for the Year of the Horse: http://www.canadapost.ca/shop/e-boutiques/lunar-new-year/p-262374.jsf?execution=e1s1

China Post Year of the Horse stamp:http://www.worldstampnews.com/2014/01/china-post-honor-the-year-of-the-horse-with-a-traditional-stamp-issue/#more-10986

Liechtenstein's Year of the Horse laser-cut horse-shaped stamp sheet: http://philatelynews.com/2013/liechtenstein/year-horse-liechtenstein/

Rolls Royce Ghost with Horse on glovebox: http://www.jingdaily.com/rolls-royce-gears-up-for-year-of-the-horse-with-zodiac-inspired-ghost/38653/

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Year of the Horse watches: http://www.luxurydaily.com/vacheron-limits-chinese-year-of-the-horse-watch-series-to-24/

Swatch Year of the Horse watch: http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2014/01/10/140110-Year-Of-The-Horse.aspx

Shanghai Tang's Year of the Horse tangram cuff links: https://www.shanghaitang.com/en-us/gifts/year-of-horse.html

Gucci's Year of the Horse offerings http://stupiddope.com/2014/01/09/gucci-celebrates-the-chinese-new-year-with-the-year-of-the-horse-capsule-collection/

Some of DKNY's Year of the Horse 16-piece collection:http://www.jingdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/DKNY_Horse.jpg

EVISU's Year of the Horse jeans: http://www.evisu.com/en/news/blog.php?id=42
Cross Year of the Horse pen: http://www.pensandleather.com/cross-year-of-the-horse-special-edition-red-ballpoint-pen.aspx

Montegrappa Year of the Horse pen: http://www.globalblue.com/destinations/italy/rome/montegrappa-celebrates-the-year-of-the-horse/

S. J. Dupont Year of the Horse lighter: http://thewowa.com/en/top/detail/de2cswnp.html

Moleskine and Shanghai Tang's Year of the Horse Feng Shui Diary: http://www.jingdaily.com/shanghai-tang-teams-up-with-moleskine-for-year-of-the-horse-diary/38745/

Nike's Year of the Horse Flightposite shoe: http://www.sneakerfiles.com/2014/01/07/nike-flightposite-exposed-year-horse-special-packaging/

Estee Lauder's Year of the Horse cosmetics case: http://www.neimanmarcus.com/Estee-Lauder-Limited-Edition-Year-of-the-Horse-Compact/prod162100197/p.prod

Diageo's limited edition 
White Horse Gold Edition 1890 Scotch:http://www.dfnionline.com/article/Diageo-marks-the-year-of-the-horse-with-new-launch-1866559.html

Korean President Park Geun-Hye: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/south-korea/121219/park-geun-hye-south-korea-president

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi: http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjdt/zyjh/t1110231.shtml

Shinzo Abe at January 2013 Press Conference: 

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