More young Chinese taking social pressures ‘lying down’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The text of a Chinese social media post titled “Lying flat is righteousness”

SHANGHAI — More and more young Chinese are expressing a desire to sit out the rat race. Or more symbolically, take it lying down.

Social media in China is buzzing with empathy for the concept of “lying down,” a euphemism for opting for a more relaxed lifestyle by no longer working long hours for little reward.

The trend has captured the minds of a generation tired of the fierce competition and parental pressure in today’s society, and has even drawn notice from the government of President Xi Jinping, which is growing increasingly concerned that it could hinder the country’s economic development.

The term originated in a post titled “Lying down is righteousness” which appeared on a social media site in April. The post used the phrase “tang ping,” meaning “lying flat,” which went viral on the internet as a term pointing to a minimal lifestyle in which competition in schools and jobs is averted and the purchase of material goods such as a house or car are not necessary.

The post said in Chinese: “Always being compared with peers and feeling the pressure of traditional values. Humans should not be like that.”

The post caused a commotion and gained support from many internet users. Among the sympathetic comments were: “There is no reason to sacrifice for the sake of economic development” and “Social progress is to lessen the burden of young people.”

The current young generation was born during the one-child policy instituted in 1979 by the Chinese government as a means of population control. Growing up, these youth have borne high expectations from the entire family since they were toddlers.

Hong Kong media has pointed out that the normalization of long working hours and the burden of living costs from rising real estate prices are also factors.

Chinese newspapers are critical of the “tang ping” trend. The Nanfang Daily, the official newspaper of the Guangdong provincial committee of the Chinese Communist Party, published a commentary labeling it as “shameful” and noting “a life of struggle is a life of happiness.” The commentary was picked up and distributed by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

“The lying down tribe is against the development of the economy and society,” wrote the Guangming Daily, among media reports on the subject.

Young people today are increasingly looking at marriage and having children negatively, at a time that the Xi government is becoming more concerned about a declining working population.

Although China abolished the one-child policy at the end of 2015, the birthrate has continued to decline as society has aged. In May, China relaxed the two-child limit to allow up to three children per couple.