BEIJING (DPA) – Common lore predicts the goat year of 2015 to bring disharmony, and the ruling Communist Party is bound to continue its anti-corruption campaign as it seeks to quell dissent and avoid clashes.
But some astrologers also say that the more moderate character of "yin wood" in 2015 will help make it easier for different parties to reach agreement despite conflicting interests. That may bode well for President Xi Jinping's first state visit to the United States, planned for later this year.
The goat is the eighth member of the 12-animal astrological cycle, and symbolizes peace and gentleness. Since ancient times, Chinese people used its wool to make calligraphy brushes and warm clothing.
People born in the year of the goat are said to be mild-mannered, kind, popular and clever.
However, some think that such people are too docile and passive, and unlikely to become leaders in society. This is why many prospective parents in China are delaying plans to conceive children this year, but rushed to give birth in the previous year of the horse, which is considered more auspicious.
The animals in the Chinese zodiac – used to track the passage of time as well as tell fortunes – are linked each year to the ancient binary opposition of yin and yang, and to one of the five elements of metal, fire, wood, earth and water.
Each combination recurs every 60 years.
According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the new goat year begins on February 19. This wood-goat year is the 32nd of the 60-year cycle. The year will be presided over by wood and earth, with the wood element restraining earth's fiery power.
That combination makes the year will be "comparatively less violent than 2014," according to popular Hong Kong-based astrologer and feng shui master Raymond Lo.
"In 2015, the flexible and more moderate character of yin wood represents compromising attitude," Lo said on his website. "As such, it will be easier to arrive at solutions and make treaties to resolve conflicts and struggles.
"The economic atmosphere will be more stable and steady with less dramatic fluctuations," he said.
That matches forecasts made by the International Monetary Fund in its World Economic Outlook report released last month, which did not foresee any dramatic economic crises. It said world economies would benefit from lower oil prices and recovery in the US economy, but places such as China, Russia, the eurozone and Japan would see slower growth.
However, previous wood goat-years were not all peaceful and uneventful.
In the 1895 wood-goat year, the Japanese military victory over China gave them control of Korea and Taiwan, triggering widespread domestic upheaval. It also worsened China's "century of humiliation," a period of imperialism by Western powers and Japan between 1839 and 1949 that included the burning of Beijing's old Summer Palace, the Sino-French War and the British invasion of Tibet.
That violent history could mean trouble between China and other countries as the Middle Kingdom has since returned to global prominence. China and the US clashed recently when Beijing slammed Washington for including discussion on South China Sea territorial disputes during President Barack Obama's visit to India.
China claims nearly the entire sea, including several parts administered by its South-East Asian neighbours. Japan and China also have a longstanding dispute involving the East China Sea.
Goats are also said to be reserved, and prefer working privately rather than being at the centre of attention. Rabbits, Horses or Pigs make their best partners, but they have to be patient because it takes time and effort to get to know goats.
The artist Michelangelo and writer Mark Twain were both goats. Actors Chow Yun-Fat, Zhang Ziyi, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts, as well as the Empress Dowager Cixi, were all born in goat years.
Many Chinese stars were scheduled to take part in China Central Television's annual Spring Festival, or new year, gala on Wednesday February 18.
Married couples traditionally give cash-filled red envelopes to children and unmarried adults of the families they visit over the 16-day Spring Festival.
Most children will be disappointed this year if they open an envelope to find it does not contain at least one red, 100-yuan (16-dollar) note.