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Fads, Fashion and Foolery for 1994

January 04, 1994|RONE TEMPEST

Beijing — DOG DAYS IN BEIJING: The Chinese will bid farewell to the Year of the Rooster and usher in the Year of the Dog at the start of the Spring Festival on Feb. 10.

China's dizzying economic growth made the Year of the Rooster well worth crowing about. The biggest tale in the Year of the Dog is likely to be the precarious health of China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping.

Deng turns 90 on Aug. 22, having outlived Mao, Chou En-lai, Marshal Chu Teh and most of the other leaders present at the founding of the People's Republic in 1949. Deng's only remaining official title is chairman of the All China Bridge Assn. But his influence remains vast in a land that never lost its taste for dynasty.

Although superstition remains officially banned in the People's Republic, most still believe that in the Chinese context, mortal milestones, natural disasters and dynastic change often occur in series. In the Year of the Dragon, 1975-76, for example, China witnessed a meteor shower, the deaths of Chou, Chu and Mao, and the Tangshan earthquake east of Beijing that killed as many as half a million people. The Chinese people took it all as an omen. Deng seized the auspicious moment to defeat the Gang of Four and end the 10-year Cultural Revolution.

In the battle for succession after Deng's death, you can be sure that the Chinese Communist government will be watching each raindrop and earth tremor lest they be interpreted as a sign of an impending change of regime.

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