Chinese Pop Singer Goes Viral with Youth Unemployment Anthem

Graduates Employment and Internship Fair in Suqian
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A Chinese pop singer named Li Ermeng scored a viral hit this week with a song about “lying flat,” the term used by a growing number of Chinese youths to describe giving up on the moribund job market.

Li’s song “I Can’t Afford to Worship in the Temple of Wealth” satirically recommends burning incense and asking Buddha for riches instead of trying to get a job in a Chinese economy where the youth unemployment rate is officially 21 percent. Some analysts believe the true rate is more than twice that high.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) translated some of the song’s lyrics:

“They’d understand what I’m suffering in the temple,” the song begins after a shrill alarm clock sound effect. “I’d rather rely on Buddha than on hard work.”

“I burned three yuan worth of incense today and wished for 3 hundred million,” Li sings. “The rest, I’ll leave up to fate.”

“From here on out, I’ll play the lottery instead of going to the temple,” run the lyrics to the song, which had spawned hundreds of copy-cat cover versions on Douyin, China’s version of Tik Tok, complete with its own hand-gesture dance, according to a keyword search on Tuesday. 

“By day I draw career plans, by night I dream of marriage,” the song goes on. 

Fans have dubbed it the “Lying Flat Song” because it so perfectly captures the spirit of that dejected, hopeless youth movement. Lying flat began as a pejorative term for lazy, shiftless people and incompetent bureaucrats, but young people have embraced it as a form of “nonviolent resistance” to the communist system, which has failed them.

The latest permutation of lying flat is the full-time child phenomenon, in which young people with no other job prospects move back in with their parents and get paid to do chores for them.

“One very important reason for the prevalence of lying flat culture is that no matter how hard you work, you can’t live a good life,” explained Taiwan-based social media influencer Chia-Pao Lee.

Restless young people seem glad to have Li’s song as an anthem to counter the songs of nationalism and devotion to communism they are often forced to sing by the Chinese Communist Party.


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