'Lying flat' gains traction in China as youngsters defy norms, Beijing not happy

By | Written by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Jul 06, 2021 09:30 AM IST

Chinese millennials are taking part in the 'lying flat' (tangping) movement, defying the country's long-held prosperity narrative of working hard. There have been protests in the country against the prevalent 996 regime, which means working from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week.

The Chinese government is grappling with a novel protest from its citizens, especially youngsters. The 'lying flat' movement involves lying down and doing as little as possible.

The 'lying flat' movement is gaining traction among the youngsters in China.(AP Photo)
The 'lying flat' movement is gaining traction among the youngsters in China.(AP Photo)

The movement has bene triggered by fears among the young population that they won't be able to do better than their parents. The fear stems from the fact that employees are working harder, and for longer hours, but prices are rising faster than incomes.

According to local media reports, the unemployment rate among those aged between 16-24 in China is 13.1 per cent, and the overall unemployment rate is 5.5 per cent. To add to this, more than 20 crore youngsters have graduated in China in the last year, ready for employment.

A generation ago, the road to success in China was hard work. But this new movement seeks to break the established norm, defying the country's long-held prosperity narrative by refusing to participate in it.

"I have been chilling," 31-year-old Luo Huazhong wrote in a blog post titled "Lying Flat Is Justice" in April. "I don't feel like there's anything wrong."

Luo quit his job as a factory worker, and decided to opt for odd jobs and survive on his savings. He biked 1,300 miles from Sichuan Province to Tibet to live his new life.

The post, which showed Luo lying on his bed in a dark room with the curtains drawn, soon went viral. Soon, Chinese millennials started celebrating the post as an anti-consumerist manifesto. "Lying flat" went viral and has since become a broader statement about Chinese society.

And Beijing is certainly not happy.

Censors have deleted a tangping (which means 'lying flat') group with more than 9,000 members on Douban, a popular internet forum. The authorities also barred posts on another tangping forum with more than 200,000 members, according to an article written by Elsie Chen in The New York Times.

China's internet regulator further ordered online platforms to "strictly restrict" new posts on tangping, according to The New York Times report.

The state news media has called tangping "shameful".

But experts say the movement is a turning point for China. "Young people feel a kind of pressure that they cannot explain and they feel that promises were broken," said Xiang Biao, a professor of social anthropology at Oxford University who focuses on Chinese society. "People realise that material betterment is no longer the single most important source of meaning in life", said Xiang.

China has a strict 996 culture, which means working from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. There were protests in 2019 against the practice which sparked debate among leading Chinese businesses.

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