The phrase “lying flat” has become popular among young Chinese. Rather than toil away at a job that offers limited possibilities for promotion or prosperity, it is better to take it easy and live a more frugal life, free from the daily grind.
Due to soaring property and commodity prices, many young Chinese no longer believe that working a “966” job — working from 9am to 6pm, six days a week — will be repaid with career advancement and affluence.
Consequently, many young Chinese are refusing to function as money-making machines for their bosses. They no longer chase after salary increases, have no interest in purchasing property and have stopped acquiring consumer goods. Instead, they advocate a minimalist lifestyle, spurning marriage and living for themselves.
If “lying flat” is interpreted to mean “low desire,” then perhaps it is more than just a passive movement and is also a silent protest aimed at a plethora of societal problems, including increased wealth disparity, unequal distribution of resources and a feeling that no matter how hard one works, one never obtains a corresponding reward.
The “lying flat” phenomenon has caught the attention of
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials — and they appear worried. This is because the prospect of economic growth is what props up the party’s rule.
There is an unwritten contract between the CCP and the Chinese public: The people keep their noses out of public affairs and do not agitate for democracy, the rule of law or human rights; in return, the party delivers increased prosperity for the masses.
If young Chinese consciously turn their backs on a consumerist lifestyle, it would inevitably have a negative effect on China’s economic growth and societal development.
As a result, party censors have shut down all of the “lying flat” forums on Douban and other Chinese social media. Even Chinese e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and JD.com have been singled out for “rectification” by party censors. Products featuring the Chinese characters for “lying flat,” including T-shirts and smartphone cases, have been removed from sale.
The party has already used state-run media to loudly condemn the “lying flat” movement. However, if the CCP goes further and attempts to snuff it out by crudely sticking its oar into the behavior patterns of young Chinese, it will certainly fail.
The “lying flat” trend will not disappear any time soon, because the crux of the problem lies in a societal environment that is ranged against the needs and aspirations of young Chinese.
China’s frothy housing market has virtually priced out aspirant middle-class Chinese. With no hope of ever owning a home of their own, many have utterly lost faith and decided to check out of the rat race.
Given the dire state of affairs, who can blame young Chinese for wanting to lie down for a while and get some much-needed rest?
Wei Shih-chang is an information technology engineer.
Translated by Edward Jones
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