China Cracks Down on Millennial Anti-Work Movement

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Chinese internet censors are deleting online forums promoting the millennial phenomenon known as “lying flat,” in which young Chinese people quit their jobs to opt out of an overworked lifestyle the Chinese Communist Party has pushed in recent years, the Hindustan Times reported Tuesday.

“Censors have deleted a tangping (which means ‘lying flat’) group with more than 9,000 members on Douban, a popular internet forum,” the Indian newspaper reported on July 6.

“The authorities also barred posts on another tangping forum with more than 200,000 members,” the newspaper added, citing a July 3 report from the New York Times.

Many young Chinese people fear “they won’t end up any better than their parents” in terms of finances, the International Business Times (IBT) reported on July 6. This generational fear has contributed to the “lying flat” movement, which “has also been triggered by the realisation that employees [in China] are working harder like machines on a twelve-hour shift, but the prices are rising faster than incomes.”

The “lying flat” concept defies a long-held societal norm in China promoting hard work. “The protests are against the strict 996 culture in China, which means working from 9:00 a.m to 9:00 p.m and six days a week,” according to IBT.

“Lying flat” first went viral on China’s heavily censored internet in April after a Chinese millennial named Luo Huazhong published a blog post titled “Lying Flat Is Justice,” along with an accompanying photo of himself “lying on his bed in a dark room with the curtains drawn,” the New York Times recalled on July 3.

“Five years ago, Luo Huazhong discovered that he enjoyed doing nothing. He quit his job as a factory worker in China, biked 1,300 miles from Sichuan Province to Tibet and decided he could get by on odd jobs and $60 a month from his savings,” the Times detailed. “He called his new lifestyle ‘lying flat.'”

“I have been chilling,” Luo, 31, wrote in the post.

“I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong,” the millennial said of his newly relaxed lifestyle.

“Before long, the post was being celebrated by Chinese millennials as an anti-consumerist manifesto. ‘Lying flat’ went viral and has since become a broader statement about Chinese society,” the Times noted.

Chinese millennials responded warmly to Luo’s blog post in subsequent weeks, “show[ing] their approval of the concept (tangping) by sharing pictures of themselves lying flat,” IBT wrote on Tuesday. “In a poll on Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter) reportedly, more than 60 percent of the 240,000 respondents said that tangping was their idea of a good life. Messages with hashtags tangping have attracted about 200 [million] views.”

Several local media reports in China profiling the surge in “lying flat” posts on social media platforms “also point out that the unemployment rate among those aged between 16-24 in China is 13.1 percent,” according to IBT. The overall unemployment rate in China is currently 5.5 percent, the Hindustan Times reported on July 6.

“To add to this, more than 20 crore youngsters [200 million] have graduated in China in the last year, ready for employment,” the Indian newspaper noted, highlighting the tough prospects facing the latest generation of China’s labor force.

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