CHINA: Year of the Rat

In the traditional pop of firecrackers and burst of rockets, the great day arrived. Red banners of long life fluttered above the paper dragons winding snake-like through the jampacked streets; messengers dodged in & out of the press with gifts of live, trussed turkeys and chickens, of fish sloshing in leaky reed baskets, of huge earthen jugs of rice wine swinging from bamboo poles.

Thus, almost everywhere in China last week, all avoidable work ceased and some 460 million people tried to forget civil war and the sky-high inflation in celebrating their greatest holiday, the Chinese New Year. It was the...

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