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November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

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FEBRUARY 4, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 4

A Roaring Success
For most of us, the Year of the Dragon promises to be golden

David G. McIntyre/Black Star for Asiaweek

Enter the Dragon - and good tidings all round. Well almost. First consider what's nearest and dearest: the family. Not a few parents have meticulously planned conception to ensure they will have Dragon babies, setting off a mini baby boom. Maternity wards from Taipei to Hong Kong are likely to be kept busy, with even level-headed Singapore estimating a 10% to 15% rise in the number of babies born this year. In southern China, distributors of infant formula are already gearing up for higher demand in anticipation of a surge in births. People in the wedding business also expect brisk trade, as more couples try to tie the knot during this period.

So what's the deal with the Dragon? In Chinese mythology, the fire-breathing beast is associated with honor and good fortune. Of the 12 animal signs in the Chinese horoscope, it is the Dragon that best represents wealth. "That's why many people look forward to a Dragon year," says Singapore feng shui expert Lynn Yap. "They believe that it means better times. Businessmen, in particular, believe that the year will bring many deals, opportunities - and lots of money!" For newlyweds, marriages sealed in the Dragon year promise to be lasting ones. Parents expect their Dragon children to deliver luck and wealth. This being the Year of the Golden Dragon - which comes round only once every 60 years - even more auspicious times are expected. And companies are ready to cash in with Dragon year coffee and cognac (a much easier sell than Rat year brandy).

Not surprisingly, the fearsome creature represents power too. The five-clawed Dragon was a symbol of the Chinese emperor and he had exclusive use of the image. So anyone who dressed in clothes woven with such a pattern in ancient China would be asking to be executed, says Yap. That's why Dragons featured in carvings, furniture or cloth meant for commoners usually had four claws or less. These days, entrepreneurs or executives who want to make a mark in industry might want to place a Dragon statuette on their desks, preferably a golden one, Yap suggests. After all, the Dragon is strongly associated with leadership.

Cover: A Roaring Success
For most of us, the Year of the Dragon promises to be golden
• Analyze This
The prophets with an uncanny eye for profits
• Mighty Years
Through the ages, the Year of the Dragon has proved decisive
• Born To Lead
Dragons who have shaken the world

On the regional front, the bourses will be on a roll. "Western countries will come to invest money, and this will push up the markets," says Yap. Asian countries will find ample growth opportunities as more multinationals set up headquarters in the region. "Asia will be well on its way to recovery." Indeed, some companies can expect to break out the Champagne as they tot up mega profits this year, she adds.

In forecasting business trends,Yap classifies enterprises under the five elements - fire, earth, metal, water and wood.

FIRE This encompasses financial services, electronics and electrical firms, lighting companies, restaurants and fast-food chains. "Fire will be in the control position, and what that influences is wealth. So business will be profitable," says Yap. However, money made should be spent on investment to strengthen branch offices.

EARTH Firms dealing with property, construction, development, crystals or employment come under this category. Yap reckons "these will generally make progress, but not much profit."

METAL Businesses include those dealing with machinery and equipment, gold jewelry, law and banking. "There are opportunities everywhere," she says.

WATER Travel, telecommunications, pubs, entertainment, trading, shipping and consultancy fall into this category. Yap says such businesses face difficulty expanding though things seem to run smoothly. "There will be more clients and customers, but profits are not proportional."

WOOD This element covers state enterprises, printing and publishing, training firms, universities, textiles, clothes, hair salons, furniture, paper and timber companies. The good news: They will do well. But "laying off redundant staff will make businesses more cost effective." Ouch.

The awesome Dragon makes its presence felt in unexpected ways too. Dragon years are usually marked by a great event, for instance, a threatening war. "It is a momentous time when lots of things will be happening," Yap warns. "There could be some riots, assassinations, earthquakes and floods." Still, it's the time of the Golden Dragon, when the metal element occupies the position above earth element. In short, 2000 will a relatively "peaceful" year, Yap says, though it may bring the downfall or death of a great leader.

For most of us, Yap says, the year promises hope. But there's another sting in this Dragon's tale: more air, water and road casualties around the world. So what's a mere mortal to do? Drive very carefully, for one. Parents should be extra alert when their children go swimming or play in water, she adds.

As for those born in the Year of the Dog (1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994), be careful whatever you do. Don't change jobs and watch your health. Ironically, the luck-bearing Dragon doesn't share much of it with those born under its sign. Fortune does not even favor Dragon people this year. "Try not to do any major signing of contracts," Yap advises. "Take extra care in your work, plan carefully and think things through before committing to anything." There are helpful people around, but you will only have average luck with money. And if you're itching to take a new career path, wait. Take care of your health.

Yap has looked into the future for some prominent politicians too. And both the Singapore and Malaysian premiers are in luck. "Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's leadership skills will be recognized by many people around the world," she says. He will succeed in whatever he does. What's more, Goh (born in a Snake year) will have an "extra Midas touch" this year. "Because of that, Singapore's economy will be very robust. GDP growth should be more than 6% by the middle of the year." On a personal note, Yap advises Goh to watch his digestion. And no swimming. Prospects are just as bright for Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad (Ox). "Whatever he plans, he will do extremely well." In the Dragon year, everything Mahathir touches will turn to gold: "He is ready to catch the glitter that will fall from the sky." Again, water sport is a no-no. "He needs to be careful if he goes swimming."

Hillary Clinton (Boar) had better step on it to get the New York Senate seat she's targeting. "If she wants to win an election, she should do so this year." She's still enjoying a 20-year stretch of fame, power and authority, and people will listen to her. But that period is ending soon. "In 2001, the Year of the Snake, there could be obstacles," Yap warns. The U.S. First Lady should watch her step while campaigning; she may fall and hurt herself. But "her kindness and warm heart will see her through." Yap offers a last tip to the would-be senator: "Take care of your husband. His luck is not too favorable this year." Hillary knows that, of course, but then feng shui doesn't have all the solutions.

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