China’s young people reject the culture of hustle and bustle; facing unemployment, economic instability

Crystal Guo said she usually worked for about six months to a year before quitting.

That’s what the 30-year-old describes about her new lifestyle as “intermittent work and persistent lying flat.”

Young people in China are increasingly distrustful and frustrated with work and life, and some are now turning away from a culture of crushing hustle as they face challenges from unemployment. increase to employee layoffs and Economic uncertainty.

The competition is so fierce that some say they have given up on their dreams and aspirations.

The concept of “tang ping” – which means “to lie flat” in Chinese – became a popular term in China last year. It was one of the top 10 internet buzzwords? in China in 2021according to the National Center for Language Resources Research and Monitoring.

“The popularity of the word reflects the stress and frustration young people feel,” said Jia Miao, an associate professor of sociology from New York University in Shanghai.

“Tang ping is the denial of overwork, where you leave things as they are and do the bare minimum,” says Miao.

In March of this year, another Chinese term appeared online. Reflecting an attitude towards life, the term “bai lan” – translated to mean “let it rot.” Posts related to the topic of interest over 91 million views on Chinese social media giant Weibo on Wednesday.

The popularity of the word reflects the stress and frustration young people feel.

Jia Miao

Assistant Professor of Sociology, NYU Shanghai.

“The beach is a place where young people don’t put in any more effort [in life] because they cannot see any hope in doing so,” added Miao.

The term first became popular among players on popular video games like “League of Legends“, according to Miao. It was originally used to describe players who retreated or gave up in a tough battle in order to take on “easier quests”.

Miao added: “This group of people are active Internet users, so the word became popular then even among non-players.”

Why is the 'quiet quit' trend so popular?

While the anti-hustle mentality of ping tang (lying upright) seems to have some similarities with the so-called give up quietly Miao points out that the movement that has become so popular on TikTok last month, bai lan (let it rot) seems to be a more negative term.

What is the source of this disillusionment among young Chinese? CNBC Make It find out.

Unemployment and instability

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Speaking to CNBC in Mandarin, Guo said she’s been fired twice in less than a year, which she describes as “quite suspicious.”

She first quit her job last July, while working at a private company providing after-school education services. Guo was fired when China suppresses the education system and do policy “double reduction”to reduce the burden of extra-curricular tutoring for students.

After half a year of traveling around China on a severance package, Guo returned home to Shenzhen and found a job at a real estate company in February this year.

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Shockingly, her entire department was laid off shortly after.

“I’m definitely affected… The job market situation is pretty bad this year. When I try to find another job, that’s the timing. tech industry Guo said.

“I was looking for a job fervently, but I couldn’t find a suitable job.”

Lying on her stomach became a form of “reality avoidance” for Guo, she said. After failing to secure another job, she used her free time to work part-time to cover daily expenses or pursue other interests.

“I admit, it might be me escaping the reality of having to find a job.”

Far-fetched desires

For me, it refuses to be abducted by society’s expectations… housing is so expensive, there’s no reason to think about it. [purchasing one] because it will bring me a lot of stress.

Aware of the lack of social mobility, along with cost of living increasesis causing disillusioned young people to “turn away” from such expectations, she added.

“So a lot of people are choosing to avoid thinking about it. They refuse to enter the competition, they refuse to compete for money, an apartment or marriage,” she added.

Those are the thoughts of 31-year-old Qiu Xiaotian, who said that he identified with the idea of ​​”lying flat.” He defines it as doing only what is necessary to survive, and “not striving for everything,” according to CNBC’s translation of his Mandarin-language comments.

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Qiu, who is working as a cinematographer, said: “For me, it is refusing to be kidnapped by social expectations. For example, housing is too expensive, there is no reason to take it. think about it because it would give me a lot of stress.”

“Even though I’m married, I don’t want to have children. Why does having a baby make my quality of life so bad? I can’t give my child a good life.”


For Guo, who has turned 30 this year, society’s expectation that a person will be able to own a home, boast of a good job and family, is best felt when she compares herself to others. himself with his colleagues.

“There is an expectation of having a home, a good career and a family – which I don’t have.”

But the concept of lying dormant, or not having a full-time job, in her case, gave her time to think about what she values ​​in life, Guo said.

When I was 22, I worried that I wouldn’t achieve anything at 30. But now at 30, I accept being normal. I don’t think it’s important to be rich, or to be able to buy a house.

Crystal Guo

Postgraduate student

“When I was 22, I worried that I wouldn’t achieve anything by the age of 30. But now at 30, I accept being normal. I don’t think it’s rich or able to buy a house. home is important too.”

She added: “When I was working, my life would revolve around work and I felt like I was missing out on time to myself.”

Backlash and criticism

Jia Miao of NYU Shanghai, said a growing sense of disillusionment is causing young Chinese to “turn away” from society’s expectations of success.

Baona | E + | beautiful pictures

However, Guo insists that choosing to lie flat doesn’t mean she gives up on herself.

“Even though it looks like I’ve been doing nothing for 6 months, I’m working on myself. ‘Tang ping’ gives me breathing space to reflect on my career and future, which isn’t exactly a thing. bad.”

Her time away from work also prompted her to pursue a Master’s degree in psychology.

“I’ve set goals for myself when I’m not working, so ‘tang ping’ doesn’t feel wasted.”

Despite the popularity of buzzwords like tang ping and bai lan, Guo said it doesn’t necessarily translate into a complete lack of action among young people.

It’s not that people who sleep in bed like me don’t contribute [to their companies]they just lack the incentive to provide extra value.

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