‘Tis the year of the tiger, fly, and monkey

Dr. B. C. Sun is a Rotarian and the Founding Executive Director of Little Bloomsbury Foundation, an arts-related peace organization. An award-winning economist, she began her career on Wall Street, New York and was Vice President of Global Consumer Banking at Citibank and Basil Blackwell Fellow at London School of Economics where she earned her PhD. This article contains excerpts from her Chinese proverb-based radio show “La Doctora Sun, La Filósofa China”, a production of Little Bloomsbury Studios. It is broadcast live in Spanish every Wednesday at 10:00 A.M. at Juan FM (104.5 FM) of Cache Valley Media Group. She may be reached at dr.b.c.sun@aol.com.

We all want to live a good life without letting others down. But meeting expectations could be a challenge for individuals of all ages, whether we choose to live by our own set of expectations or those of significant others.

It may sound a bit silly, but having been born a tiger, I tried very hard throughout my younger days to live up to the character traits of my sign – independent, passionate, courageous, confident… you name it. The Chinese also liken being the emperor’s courtier to keeping vigil at the tiger’s side. So you can’t blame me for wanting to be the boss, although that meant having to try extra hard as the youngest child in the family.

Much has changed since the day my grandmother said to me, “<em>Tiger child, you were born a hair before dawn, having fallen sound asleep after quite a feast from the spoils of a good night’s hunting</em>.” “<em>And that means?</em>!” I hurriedly asked with mixed emotions. “<em>And that means</em>,” she continued kindly, as if pleading on her deathbed, “<em>You don’t have to act the part, at least not of the traditional expectations of the tiger – on the hunt, fearsome with glowing eyes in the dark, strategically calculative, and ready to pounce any minute when someone is not on the watch.</em>” I breathed a sign of relief, grateful for not having to try any harder to be a “tiger tiger” and at the same time for not being a non-tiger either lest I could become the spoils on a tiger’s hunt.

Being in the vicinity of a tiger is no fun, even if you are a crocodile, leopard, or python, as a good hard fight is inevitable and victory is not guaranteed. It is no wonder that tigers are among the most revered in the animal kingdom. But because tiger bones and tails are highly valued in Chinese medicine, excessive poaching has been taken to such an extreme that tigers are now classified by the World Wildlife Fund as a “critically endangered species.” In fact, as few as 3,200 exist in the wild today.

Why then would President Xi Jinping of China be so bold as to announce himself a tiger poacher? Indeed, he had no qualms concerning the threatened status of tigers and declared that he will poach them mercilessly. Thank goodness he was speaking in a figurative sense, referring to the country’s figureheads who are guilty of corruption. In the past, the indictment of corrupt government officials was understood as being only a maneuver against political enemies. Perhaps not any more…

Despite long-held beliefs that anti-corruption campaigns are but a public relations show and a manifestation of concealed power struggles within the Communist Party, Xi’s determination to steer the corrupt Mainland Chinese culture toward one in which “no one would dare to be corrupt” is not only believable and also probable.

When it comes to making changes, nothing motivates like a crisis.

Xi’s soul-wrenching proclamation of the effects of corruption of “wang dang wang guo” (亡党亡国) resonates with the Chinese people at large, party-affiliated or not, patriotic or not, rich and famous or not, educated or not. What Xi means by his now-famous four-letter proverb is that the corruption epidemic has critically endangered the party and the nation, and if left uncurbed there would be a Chinese nation no more, much less a ruling party. According to Xi, the only way out of the crisis is to “poach the tigers and flies all in one go” with zero tolerance and blanket coverage of the highest-ranking government officials, their minutest underlings, and everyone and everything in between who are corrupt. By rocking the big boat of an 88 million-strong party membership and putting himself on the spot, the party-elected president is inviting his ultimate significant others and allies – the Chinese people, to raise their expectations of what he should and could accomplish for them.

This year and for many more to come, Xi’s “tigers and flies” are set to linger in the spotlight, and every 12 years the monkeys too. Be on the watch now as February unveils the lunar new year of the most agile, humanlike, and cheekiest of all Chinese signs.

© Copyright 2016 Little Bloomsbury Studios, LLC. All rights reserved.

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