Tuesday, February 16, 1999 Published at 22:04 GMT
Happy Year of the Rabbit
Drum dancers performing in a Beijing park
The Chinese-speaking world has welcomed the Year of the Rabbit with fireworks, dragon dances and hopes for an end to Asia's economic troubles.
This year more Chinese residents welcomed the New Year with fireworks as several major cities in the north relaxed a five-year ban imposed for safety reasons.
But residents of the capital, Beijing, still had to travel to the suburbs to see organised displays - although in the city itself the sound of fire-crackers through the night made it clear that not all were observing the ban.
Many Chinese took advantage of a seven-day, government-ordered holiday and travelled to their home towns.
In the southern province of Guandung state media said some 24 million journeys had been made in recent days as people travelled to be with their relatives.
Difficult Year of the Tiger
"Under complicated circumstances both at home and overseas, our great motherland remains prosperous," Mr Zhu said.
Official media featured a series of reports on how victims of last year's severe floods were seeing in the New Year in re-built homes.
Year of the Rabbit eventful
In the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Rabbit is believed to bring peace, prosperity and good luck.
But China must first navigate through what officials have called the "sensitive period" in early June around the 10th anniversary of Tiananmen Square killings, as well as the 40th anniversary in March of an anti-Chinese uprising in Tibet.