For the uninitiated, traditionally, the Chinese have had a series of different ways to count the years. The two that pop to mind, are the Era names and the Sexagenary cycle.
Era names used to be chosen by the emperor, and was supposed to possess a certain meaning. This is maintained by Japan, which still has an emperor. The democratic nation of the Republic of China still maintains the era naming system, which would make 2014 民國103 (103rd year of the Republic), and for the nominally anti-monarchical country like Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, their era year would be 主주體체（Juche） 103.
The Sexagenary cycle on the other hand, is much more complicated. If you like, you can read the wiki page to get an idea of how it works, and how it got started. Just know, that it comes in 60-year cycles, and most of 2014 (that is, once the lunar new year hits), will be the 甲午 year. Two cycles (120 years) ago, was the year that the 甲午戰爭 (First Sino-Japanese War) happened. Now, some may be asking “So?” And I suppose you could dismiss it, because the 八年抗日 （Second Sino-Japanese War） happened on the 丁酉 year. Yes, but let’s not forget that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to end 2013 with a visit to the Yasakuni Shrine, a move that is highly provocative to the Chinese, because it stirs up emotions of not just issues stemming from the 八年抗日 （Second Sino-Japanese War）, but more importantly, shows how Sino-Japanese relations has been rocky to navigate. The back and forth over the past couple of years between China and Japan, doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop, and despite America’s Pivot to Asia, it shows that the US no longer has much sway in the region. Those who ignore the significance of this year, also ignore the Chinese government’s capability to use their own peoples’ lack of history knowledge, to bend it to their own will. For years, the Chinese have been pussyfooting around the issues, playing silly little games, they emphasize the fact that Ming dynasty maps showed that the Pinnacles was a part of Taiwan (which they claim as theirs as well), which would imply the Japanese took it from the Chinese. This completely ignores the fact that the Chinese government didn’t mention it at all in its communiques with the US, nor did either Chinese government (as represented either by TaiPei, or BeiJing), bring up any issues, when the US handed over control of Okinawa, to include the Pinnacles over to Japan. You know, by extension, if you like to ignore facts, you could cite Gavin Menzies that the Ming dynasty officials discovered America. By extension, it’s time for China to take back America!
See how China bends history to its modern political will? On the one hand, it makes historical claims over a bunch of islands, because it fits its needs to grab resources for its own gains, yet it won’t be consistent in applying the “historical territory” claims over other lands. It’s a PR move for the government to look like they are effectively doing something. Just like their leader 習近平(Xi, Jin-Ping) showing up at a store eating some buns, which is no different than Mao’s birth year (a year before the 甲午戰爭 (First Sino-Japanese War)). They’re all publicized media incidents to influence people opinion in their favor. Keeps them in power, and lets everybody else concentrate on trivial things that otherwise would have no meaning, and keeps the people away from issues that actually matter, like illegal seizures of property from 甲午戰爭 (First Sino-Japanese War), they were two countries trying to pull themselves into modernity, taking in elements of what industrialized Europe had to offer. One of the things that was popular in Europe at the time, was nationalism. So it goes to show you, as modernized as Japan or certain cities in China may be, they are still centuries behind in maturity.