Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Red China and the Year of the Rat

Shoppers choose Chinese Lunar New Year decorations at Bo'ai Road in Haikou, capital of south China's Hainan Province, Jan. 20, 2008. Photo: Xinhua Photo

American comedian Rich Little became famous for his impersonation of President Ronald Reagan and in one news conference sketch, a reporter from the Wichita Lineman asks: "Mr. President, what's your policy towards Red China?"

"Red China," the President says and pauses. "It shouldn't be used on a blue tablecloth," he then says.

With the Chinese Lunar New Year due to begin on February 7, red is currently a very ubiquitous colour where thee are big concentrations of Chinese people.

The year of the rat will likely be another good one for the Chinese economy despite a recession in the US.

China's State news agency Xinhua, reports that the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) released a book on the 129 languages spoken by Chinese.

The book, "China's Languages," features 129 languages and gives an introduction to each in English, according to CASS.

Sun Hongkai, chief editor of the seven-chapter book, said the content was based on an investigation of Chinese languages started in the 1950s.

"Although China only has 56 official ethnic groups, some ethnic groups use two or more languages. This is the reason why we have collected so many languages," he said.

China is home to 56 ethnic groups. Han people, the largest group, make up about 92 percent of the country's population. The rest, the 55 ethnic minorities, share China's vast land and maintain their own traditions and customs.

Mandarin is the official language of China and the Cantonese dialect which is common in southern China including Hong Kong, is the main spoken dialect of the Chinese diaspora.

President Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan and comedian Rich Little.