Rabbits are hopping out of hats! 锦囊妙计 Jǐn náng miàojì – a pocketful of miracles, a card up one’s sleeve

Rabbits are pacifists and problem solvers and in anticipation, diplomacy has been on Australian front pages in recent months. This Rabbit Year arrives on 22 January 2023 and with it a spotlight on international affairs and the hope of ends to wars and conflicts. 

见兔顾犬 Jiàn tù gù quǎn – whistle up the dog when you spot a rabbit – take advantage of an opportunity that comes around only once in a while.

Chief Rabbit Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Wong have jumped the gun on the Rabbit Year and capitalised on their momentum since taking office in May 2022. Minister Wong paved the way in a number of meetings with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, culminating in a warm meeting between Albanese and President Xi in November at the G20.  Penny Wong has soaked up the Rabbit’s energy, donned warm clothes, and honoured the 50th anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between our countries by travelling to Beijing and opening the way to a resumption in dialogues. A constant at all of these vaunted meetings has been our Chief Interpreter, Charles Qin, who has been the Mandarin Interpreter at dialogues with Chinese presidents, premiers and foreign ministers for decades. 

Find out more: Invisible Mandarin interpreters on both sides have seamlessly been helping in rapprochement.

兔子不吃窝边草 Tùzi bù chī wō biān cǎo  – a rabbit doesn’t eat the grass near its own hole – one shouldn’t do anything harmful to their neighbours

We are all in need of respite after a horror 2022. Rabbit years are normally calm after the drama of the Tiger and it is a year to find comfort and definitely not a year for aggression. Rabbit years are good for thinking, talking and solving problems: 2023 is a great year for diplomacy.  If you have had problems with Chinese dealings, now is a good time to resume talks – get yourself a good Mandarin Interpreter and invoke the lucky rabbit. Start off by extending good wishes for the Chinese New Year.

狡兔三窟 Jiǎo tù sān kū – a wily rabbit has three burrows, meaning it is wise to have more than one place to hide in times of danger!

Unlike their North Korean cousins (see below), rabbits are lucky creatures and live a charmed life. They aren’t a  soft touch, but seen as cautious and cunning – inscrutable some may say – weighing up the pros and cons before making what is usually the right decision. They are astute in finances, risk averse and if you are negotiating with one, check out the fine print! Rabbits also know when to run from danger.

Rabbits have great memories. Good communicators, however change is something that alarms the bunny; personally they can be a bit on the pessimistic side, unlike their own year which is one of renewed optimism.

Last year was the 130th anniversary of the Rabbit Proof Fence in Australia – built to keep the rabbits out. More frightening (just like the last rabbit year) are the floods down the eastern seaboard causing so much devastation and killing rabbits too. 

Did you know that rabbits are the third favourite pet in Australia (after dogs and cats), except in Queensland where it is illegal to keep a pet rabbit.

兔死狗烹 Tù sǐ gǒu pēng – when the rabbit is caught the hound will be boiled – to get rid of somebody once their purpose has been served (also狡兔死,走狗烹Jiǎo tù sǐ, zǒugǒu pēng).

Just for the record, 24 European Rabbits were introduced to Australia in 1859 by estate owner Thomas Austin in Victoria for sport (The Mansion at Werribee Park). They soon spread throughout the country due to the lack of natural predators, widespread farming producing an ideal habitat and mild Australian winters allowing them to breed year round. Australia’s equivalent to the rabbit, the Bilby, was quickly pushed out by rabbits and also fell prey to other introduced species: foxes and feral cats. These days various breeding programs and sanctuaries are bringing bilbies back from the brink.

Rabbits cost Australia around $200 million annually by competing with native animals, destroying landscape, causing erosion, reducing pasture for livestock, preventing regeneration of native vegetation and spreading weeds. However climate change and higher temperatures causes reduced fertility and higher mortality in rabbits.  A positive for some, but also impacting medical research and countries where rabbit meat is an important food source.

Professor Frank Fenner, Australian microbiologist, who drove the eradication of smallpox also brought control of the 1950s rabbit plague with myxomatosis and earned the nickname “Bunny” Fenner. Fenner, Ian Clunies-Ross and Frank Macfarlane Burnet famously injected themselves with the myxoma virus to prove it was not dangerous to humans.

North Korean Bunny Boiler President

Not a title you would associate with former president and father of Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il (who died in the 2011 Rabbit Year). It all started in 2006 when Rabbit Robert won the title of “Germany’s Biggest Rabbit”. The prized rabbit featured on a South Korean TV show and weighed an enormous 10 kilos. Next thing, retired German truck driver and rabbit breeder Karl Szmolinsky agreed to sell 12 of his bunnies (including Robert’s father) to North Korea and travel to Pyongyang to advise on setting up a breeding program. The project was seen as a means to alleviate the starving millions in North Korea. The rabbits disappeared following a banquet, as did Szmolinsky’s visa. 

守株待兔 Shǒu zhū dài tù  – waiting by a tree for a rabbit to turn up, or hoping for gain without pain.

Rabbits like a cushy life and can be a bit slack – especially when it comes to unpleasant tasks.

In their defence, rabbits are wonderful hosts, gracious, popular, peaceful and artistic. Also narcissistic, they like to be on the best dressed list and surrounded by the finer things in life like dining at the best establishments. Cultured and clean – they like sanitized environments – Covid has been kind to the rabbit!

Good at saving and keeping the finances under control, you also need to be patient with a rabbit. They can get bored and leave someone to finish off a project’s tedious details.

兔子尾巴长不了Tùzi wěibā cháng bù liǎo – a rabbit’s tail can’t be long – it won’t last long

Human population milestones have been reached in Rabbit years and amassing at increasing speed.

The world population hit 2 billion in 1927; 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999 and 7 billion in 2011; we just missed the 8 billion mark which clicked over late in 2022 

Rabbit Year Milestones:

1903 – First successful powered flight by the Wright Brothers; Australia’s second federal election was held, the first in the world in which women were permitted to vote and stand for parliament. 

1915 – Anzac Day evacuation from Gallipoli and 25 April commemorations started.

1927 – Australia’s first parliament convened in Canberra.

1939 – World War 2 started; Robert Menzies sworn in as Australia’s Prime Minister.

1951 – The ANZUS Treaty signed; ANZ Bank formed; first chiko rolls sold; The Australian Financial Review first published.

1963 – President John F Kennedy was assassinated; 250,000 people marched for civil rights in the US and Martin Luther King gave his famous speech; Indigenous Australians could vote in federal elections. 

1975 – Bill Gates founded Microsoft; Whitlam government sacked; Vietnam war ended; Indonesia invaded East Timor; colour TV arrived in Australia; The Racial Discrimination Act took effect in Australia; Medibank introduced. 

1987 – The first mobile phone call was made in Australia; Black Monday: stock markets nosedived around the world; Black Tuesday – Australia’s All Ordinaries fell 25% the largest single day decline in stock market history;  Martial law in Taiwan ended after 38 years and so commenced  a democratisation process; the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Mainland China opened in Beijing.

1999 – Macau returned to China – it was negotiated and came in to effect in 2 successive Rabbit years; Shanghai Pudong Airport opened; Australian referendum to become a republic and appoint a president replacing the Queen and Governor-General failed; Boris Yeltsin resigned as Russian President leaving Vladimir Putin as Acting President; GST bill passed in Australia. 

2011 – Arab Spring started; Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s east coast killing over 15,000; 6.3 deadly earthquake struck Christchurch; serious floods hit Australia’s east coast; Osama bin-laden killed; Prince William and Catherine Middleton married. 

Rabbiteers

Confucius, Queen Victoria, Napoleon, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Fidel Castro, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Pope Benedict XVI, Jill Biden, Michael Kirby, David Hicks

Artistic Bunnies: Frank Sinatra, Germaine Greer John Cleese, Sidney Poitier, Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, George Michael, Sting, George Orwell, Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Whitney Houston, Angeline Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Jet Li, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Buble, Clive James, Jamie Oliver, Brett Whiteley, Phillip Adams, Fred Schepisi, Elle Macpherson, Paul Mercurio, Stan Grant, Sarah Snook

Sporty Bunnies: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Denis Shapovalov, Alex De Minaur, Angelique Kerber, Elena Rybakina, Maria Sharapova, Evonne Goolagong-Cawley

Lionel Messi, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Sebastian Vettel

Nathan Lyon, Cameron Green, Andrew Symonds, Jacques Kallis, Mike Hussey, Jason Gillespie

Australian pollies: PM Anthony Albanese (he has been quoted as saying he is going to “pull a rabbit out of his hat” and fix the energy crisis), former PM John Howard, former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Labor members: Josh Burns, Ged Kearney; Green Senator Mehreen Faruqi; Liberals Bridget Archer, Melissa Price, Senator James Paterson.

Rabbiting On in your Career

Rabbits rise fast: good in politics, diplomacy, government, law, the priesthood (Pope Benedict XVI), careers involving communication, antique collectors and academics.

Compatibility Stakes

Lacking commitment, bunnies go well with sheep, monkeys, pigs and oxen; not with snakes, rats and roosters.

The Rabbit bounces out of its hutch on 22 January and the Dragon roars in on 10 February 2024

So hop to it! Send your New Year Greetings to your Chinese friends and stakeholders.

If you need a hand (or paw) or e-card, reach out to Chin.

If you need help with a short, CNY campaign, contact our marketing team on 1300 792 446 or info@chincommunications.com.au

Thanks to our translator intern Ben Owen for his help with Rabbit research and idioms.

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