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    Why the Year of the Dragon is different

    In the auspicious Year of the Dragon, China sees a unique surge in fertility and changes in consumer trends, driven by cultural beliefs in the dragon’s symbol of prosperity.
    The dragon holds a unique place in Chinese astrology as the only mythical creature among the 12 zodiac animals. Image: Xiaohongshu
      Published   in Lifestyle

    The dragon holds a unique place in Chinese astrology as the only mythical creature among the 12 zodiac animals. It symbolizes strength, luck, and prosperity. The Year of the Dragon is seen as an especially fortuitous time to start businesses, make significant life changes, and invest in high-value purchases. But what are the tangible impacts on consumers trends in the year of the dragon in China?

    Fertility#

    China experienced its first population decline since the 1960s in 2022 and a continuation of this trend in 2023.

    The dragon year may turn that around with the emergence of “Dragon babies,” a term that denotes children born in the year of the dragon. Many Chinese regard the dragon as the most favorable sign in the zodiac. They believe that children born in the Year of the Dragon possess intelligence, charisma, and eloquence.

    Jian Yu, a 28-year-old software engineer from Shanghai, says: “The pressure to have ‘Dragon babies’ is immense. My girlfriend and I decided to travel instead of returning to Chengdu for the holidays to avoid the intense pressure from her grandmother to start a family during this auspicious year.”

    Historical data shows significant increases in births in past dragon years. For instance, in 2000, Hong Kong witnessed a more than 5 percent increase in its birth rate, a pattern that has been mirrored in other regions such as mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore during previous dragon years. In the most recent dragon year of 2012, China experienced a rise in its birth rate, climbing from 13.27 percent the previous year to 14.57 percent.

    The belief in the superior prospects of dragon-year-born children is so strong that it has been the subject of academic research.

    Children born in dragon years often excel academically, outperforming peers in both Chinese and English tests, as observed in a study of 15,000 Chinese secondary students. These ‘Dragon children’ are also 11 percent more likely to attend university. This advantage persists even when considering family background, cognitive ability, and self-esteem, suggesting parental attitudes to dragon children play a significant role.

    The research suggests that the heightened expectations and increased investment in dragon-year children could indeed influence their life outcomes, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Consumer trends

    Lina Hua, a 34-year-old marketing professional from Beijing, says: “Dragon year’s always special, but this time it’s different. It’s coinciding with the end of Covid restrictions. My friends and I want to believe in the luck a dragon year could bring.”

    The limited edition “Year of the Dragon” line from Arc’teryx has quickly become a coveted collection, especially the jackets, which are in high demand.

    The jacket from the “Year of the Dragon” collection by Arc’teryx. Image: Arc’teryx
    The jacket from the “Year of the Dragon” collection by Arc’teryx. Image: Arc’teryx

    Mr. Xing Li, a 46-year-old shopper in Beijing, found himself lining up at the Arc'teryx outlet in Beijing, eagerly waiting for three and a half hours to secure his limited edition set. Doors opened at 10am. Fifteen minutes later, the exclusive line was completely sold out. Remarkably, the jacket, which initially retailed for $1,140, is now fetching around $500 more at $1,668 on resale platforms.

    JD.com witnessed over 23 million searches for dragon-themed products since the beginning of the year. The platform now boasts more than 1,700 subcategories of products adorned with dragon motifs. The turnover for these items has skyrocketed, exceeding last year’s figures for rabbit-themed products more than tenfold.

    This trend is particularly pronounced in the jewelry sector, where sales of gold locks for babies and gold bracelets featuring Chinese dragon designs have increased more than 10 times year on year. Some Beijing stores reported a nearly 165 percent increase in sales in December 2023 compared to the previous month.

    In the consumer goods market, Maotai’s “Dragon Maotai” edition, a special release to commemorate the Year of the Dragon, saw over 8.5 million people participating in a lucky draw to win the baijiu-style liquor, despite a mere 0.2 percent chance of success. One of the 500ml bottles was auctioned for nearly $2,500, up from the original price of $347 yuan.

    “I wouldn't say I’m superstitious in the traditional sense, but I do respect cultural traditions. There’s comfort in observing these practices, especially during the Year of the Dragon. Maybe it’s not really lucky. But it doesn’t hurt right?” says Hua.


    1. The Year of the Dragon in Chinese astrology, seen as highly auspicious, leads to a notable surge in fertility, with many families aiming to have "Dragon babies" due to beliefs in their future success and prosperity.
    2. Consumer trends during the Dragon year show a significant increase in demand for dragon-themed products, with luxury and consumer brands releasing special editions that quickly sell out, indicating strong cultural engagement and consumer enthusiasm.
    3. Historical data demonstrates a rise in birth rates during Dragon years, reinforcing the cultural preference for children born under this zodiac sign, attributed to their perceived intelligence, charisma, and potential for success.
    4. The concept of "Dragon babies" influences not just family planning but also consumer behavior, with parents likely to invest more in education and development, believing in the enhanced prospects of their Dragon-year children.
    5. Brands capitalize on the Year of the Dragon's special status by offering limited edition products, such as Arc'teryx's highly sought-after collection and Maotai's "Dragon Maotai" edition, tapping into the celebratory mood and cultural practices of consumers.
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