Something is happening in China.
It is not a revolution, nor a movement. It is a new attitude to life. This new attitude is coalescing into revulsion at crony capitalism and the hectic pace of life in China where money is king and the rest counts for nothing.
This new attitude which is spreading among Chinese in their twenties and thirties is termed “lie flatism” or “do nothing.”
The theology of do-nothing-ism is “don’t work, don’t buy real estate, don’t shop, don’t marry and don’t have children.”
We don’t know how many young people in China embrace this individual or collective turn towards asceticism or austerity but the New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV), which broke the story on 4th June this year, the 31st anniversary of the pro-democracy movement, says the “trend is growing.”
As reported by NTDTV, a Chinese netizen says, “No matter how hard you work, you cannot get rich. You are merely a tool that other people use, and discard when it’s worn out. Think it over; indeed, we don’t need to be so tired.”
Another netizen adds, “The greatest devaluation in our society is not the devaluation of our currency, but the devaluation of our efforts. This is the most desperate.”
NTDTV quotes another person saying, “To lie flat reflects a person’s extreme disappointment in the future and extreme despair in (a lack of) social justice!”
According to the NTDTV report, another comment on Chinese social media adds, “The gap between rich and poor is getting wider and wider.
There are 600 million Chinese with a monthly income of under 150 dollars (1000 Chinese yuan), so they have to control their temptations and lie-flat.”
What is the reaction of Beijing to these comments that reflect the sheer exhaustion of China’s young in this awesome rat-race and their refusal to be slaves to money?
The official reaction when Beijing noticed the trend has been one of growing nervousness.
NTDTV quotes state media as saying “If this lie-flatism becomes popular among the young people, it will turn into a force of resistance and challenge the existing social structure.”
Another state media, quoted by NTDTV, commands the young of China to accept their fate. They are to get up and get to work. They are not allowed to lie flat.
What is happening to the young of China these days? Once they made the Chinese communist revolution and nearly brought it down in 1989.
On May 4, 1919, Chinese students rose up in massive crowds to protest the Treaty of Versailles that was blatantly unfavourable to China.
During the Cultural Revolution the Red Guards at Mao’s command nearly brought about a civil war. Whether rightly or wrongly, visionary or destructive, the youth of China were full of energy then.
So why the present listlessness, lethargy and loss of goals?
Growing inequality is one reason. China’s super-rich, 1% of the population, own the lion’s share of the communist country’s wealth. And young Chinese men don’t want to marry because there are not enough women to go around thanks to the strict imposition and enforcement of the one-child policy for decades.
More importantly, the Chinese Communist Party has robbed the most productive section of the Chinese working population of their hopes, aspirations and dreams.
President Xi Jinping’s China dream has turned into the young people’s nightmare.
That’s why this growing social boycott in China today, which if it gathers steam, will have wrenching social, economic and political consequences for the whole country.
By – Thubten Samphel, former director of the Tibet Policy Institute, Central Tibetan Administration.
Image: Ling Tang – Unsplash