Chinese youth have taken to protesting against the culture of being overworked and underpaid with a new form of resistance that has steadily gained momentum on the country's social media and microblogging sites. This is known as the 'Tang Ping' or 'lying flat' movement, an almost monastic approach towards jobs and employment in a work culture defined by longer hours, excessive ambition and few rewards. The concept is being described as a spiritual movement with which the youth of the country can free itself from being a cog in a capitalist machinery.
What is the 'Tang Ping' or the 'lying flat' movement?
Tang Ping or 'lying flat' is a resistance that garnered attention following a post on social media (which has since been deleted) that said, 'lying flat is justice.' Bearing the username Kind-Hearted Traveler, the person who created this post described his experience of living off of 200 yuan or $31 per month with two meals a day, without working for a couple of years: a phenomenon that enhanced his physical and mental freedom. "Lying down is my wise man movement," the post suggested.
Essentially, the social media conversation that this post kickstarted advocates for not overworking, being content with realistic achievements and allowing oneself time to unwind after a day's work. The movement calls to the Chinese youth to lie flat, following the simple belief that when we work we stand up, but when we rest, we lie down. Now, t-shirt carrying slogans like 'Do nothing lie flat youth' are also becoming popular in a bid to combat the 'always-on' work culture.
According to a recent Quartz report, Chinese youth have for long lamented the skyrocketing housing prices, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, the pressures of working for long hours and the high cost of raising a family. Lying down has then become a means of addressing these inequalities and speaking out to a government that has for the last few years tried to move towards rapid economic rise by fostering hard work and accelerated productivity to the point of exhausting the country's young workforce.
Tang Ping and the Chinese youth
The post by Kind Hearted Traveler that came up on the Chinese social media site Tieba also sparked a conversation on the popular Chinese site, Sina Weibo and Tang Ping soon became a buzzword among the youth. And in the face of a shrinking labour market, where measures that have been taken for an accelerated national rejuvenation and economic growth, the Tang Ping movement has become a medium to showcase how the odds are stacked against the younger workforce by pointing to the cracks within the economic system.
The trend has been subtly thwarting government policies at a time when young people are increasingly feeling that the general progress of the country is taking away from their own personal advancements.
Tang Ping by its nature is very similar to another trend that had emerged a few years back called the 'sang culture' or the 'doomsday culture' which pointed to a slipshod work ethic and an overall lack of self motivation in the Chinese youth. With the present trend too, youngsters in China have found a means of expressing the pressures that are a result of the country's one-child norm and a rapidly ageing older generation moving towards retirement. As a direct manifestation of these socio-economic aspects, the youth has been carrying the weight of increased demands and has presently resorted to a subtle protest that calls for a better work-life balance simply by lying flat and doing nothing.