An entire generation of Chinese youth is rejecting the pressures of hustle culture by ‘lying flat’

·4-min read
Ground down by the sapping realties of modern city life, China's youth are ‘lying flat,’ the latest buzzword for those tapping out of a culture of endless work with little reward (AFP via Getty Images)
Ground down by the sapping realties of modern city life, China's youth are ‘lying flat,’ the latest buzzword for those tapping out of a culture of endless work with little reward (AFP via Getty Images)

Young Chinese people are participating in an online social protest in droves, meant to express their disillusionment with work and hustle culture by “lying flat.”

The trend of “Tang Ping” is meant to reject the culture of overwork that forces Chinese youngsters to work for longer hours with little reward. Many are frustrated with the low prospects of their jobs and their inability in the face of rising prices to afford a house ever in their lifetimes. And they are rejecting it all by ‘lying flat.’

T-shirts with slogans like “Do nothing lie flat youth” have become quite famous as a result. And experts worry that this trend might harm the economic prospects of the country.

Tang Ping became a rage among the youth when a post by a social media user called Kind-Hearted Traveller went viral. The post said “lying flat is justice.” He further wrote about Greek philosophers and chronicled his experience living on 200 yuan [$31] a month, two meals a day, and not working for two years, the South Morning China Post reported.

The user said: “I can just sleep in my barrel enjoying a sunbath like Diogenes, or live in a cave-like Heraclitus and think about ‘Logos’. Since there has never really been a trend of thought that exalts human subjectivity in this land, I can create it for myself. Lying down is my wise man movement.”

The user said that this experience left them “physically healthy and mentally free.”

The post resulted in a conversation among the youth.

BBC reported that the trend of Tang Ping was being called a “spiritual movement.”

“The idea behind Tang Ping - not overworking, being content with more attainable achievements and allowing time to unwind,” it said.

In fact, a survey by Weibo, conducted between 28 May and 3 June, found that “61 per cent of the 241,000 participants said they want to embrace the lying flat attitude,” reported the South China Morning Post. It further added that the domestic economic slowdown caused by the pandemic and trade tensions with the US has only made people more receptive to the idea.

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Elaine Tang, 35, who works for a Guangzhou-based tech firm, told SCMP that Tang Ping was resonating with so many Chinese youths because they now see how odds are stacked against them under the current system. She said: “In recent years, property prices have skyrocketed, and the gap between social classes has become wider and wider.”

She added: “The rich and the authorities monopolise most of the resources, and more and more working-class like us have to work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week, but still can’t afford a down payment [on a flat] or even the cost of having a child.” Ms Tang has been married for seven years and doesn’t have a child, reported the paper.

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Experts say authorities are worried that this trend might hamper China’s dream of national rejuvenation and rapid economic growth. Chinese authorities have tried to attack the movement, SCMP reported. “Social media chat groups have been blocked for talking about how to participate,” it said.

Tang Ping in China is an off-shoot of a global movement that calls for rest and rejuvenation rather than hustle. Several Instagram pages in fact are now devoted to advocating for rest and relaxation in the face of increasing capitalistic pressures around the globe.

“China is at one of the most important stages of its long road to national rejuvenation. Young people are the hope of this country, and neither their personal situation nor the situation of this country will allow them to ‘collectively lie flat’,” said an editorial in the Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Chinese government.

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