As China gets into a festive mode to celebrate 100 years of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on July 1, an unnerving socio-economic phenomenon—the ‘lying flat’ culture or ‘tang ping’ is gaining momentum among the country’s youngsters. The new inert culture is spreading rapidly through social media and other microblogging sites, such as Sina Weibo and WeChat blogs.
In short, the Chinese millennials are revolting against the country’s much publicised 966 work culture. The 966-work schedule refers to a “work ethic” which demands employees to work from 9 am to 9 pm for six days a week. This takes the total working hours to 72 hours in a week.
In 2019, China’s once poster boy and Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma had stirred up a controversy when he endorsed the gruelling 966 work culture. Not just Ma. But several others including Richard Liu, founder of the Chinese e-commerce company JD.com defended this gruelling and brutal working habits.
But today, large number of youngsters are rejecting employment opportunities which demand long and excruciating working hours.
The Hong Kong based South China Morning Post said that this social resistance movement is worrying authorities, who see it as a potential threat to China’s dream of national rejuvenation. At the end of the 19th party congress in the autumn of 2017, when the winter jackets had not come off the closets and flowers were in full bloom in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a time-line for accomplishing national rejuvenation. In a marathon speech that he delivered lasting over three hours, Xi said that on July 1 ,2021, when the CCP completed its century of existence, China would emerge as a moderately prosperous society, doubling its GDP, with 2010 as the reference point.
He told a captive audience in the Great Hall of the People that by 2049, which would mark the centenary of the formation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), China would accomplish is national rejuvenation by emerging as the world’s most advanced country in all fields of human endeavour, including science, technology, arts and culture. In between, that is by 2035, China would surpass the United States as the world’s biggest economy.
But any disruption of the 966 culture could prove devastating to achieve these “two-centenary” goals, which the CCP wants to achieve at whatever the cost. However, now, this would not be easy as the millennials and the Generation—Z without immersive memories of enduring China’s cataclysmic events such as the Long March, Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution of the sixties and seventies, which killed millions but also created a battle-hardened generation which was ready for great sacrifices, were unlikely to go along.
Today most of the educated Chinese millennials who are graduates refuse to take up blue collar employment, which is not only less rewarding but also more physically demanding.
Analysts said that the phenomenon of the “lying flat” culture could have a huge impact on the country’s consumption pattern.
“The Chinese millennials are simply ‘lying flat’. They don’t want to do blue collar jobs like the earlier generation. They are not interested in buying houses, or even getting married. This phenomenon is affecting the Chinese society,” BR Deepak, expert on China and Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) told India Narrative. It is now an open question whether passive resistance can turn into more active protests, as young Chinese have been “infected” by the virus of democracy and freedom radiating from compatriots from nearby Hong Kong and Taiwan.
According to the South China Morning Post, though the employment situation in China has improved with the economic recovery, many workers in labour intensive industries and new university graduates remain unemployed or underemployed.
Sources also said that there has been an aspirational change with the rise of the new generation and its induction in the workplace. The change is more psychological than material. Many within the society therefore experience no excitement over the CCP completing 100 years though mega events have been lined up to mark the day on Thursday.
“It is hard to tell whether people are doing those things out of sincerity, but it is necessary for them to make a gesture, to show to [the CCP] that they follow [China's] value system,” ABC News quoted Hsuanlei Shao, associate professor of East Asia studies at National Taiwan Normal University as saying.