According to the CNBC on September 16, in the face of fierce competition in the workplace, rising unemployment, and growing disappointment with life, “laying flat” and “rotten” have become popular terms and show young people’s attitudes towards life.

A perceived lack of social mobility and the rising cost of living drive disillusioned young people away from ideals and expectations.

Crystal Guo, 30, says she typically works for about six months to a year before quitting.

She calls it a new lifestyle of “intermittent working and persistent lying flat.” And now, she’s been fired twice in less than a year.

Gou said, “When I was 22, I worried if I would have achieved nothing at 30. But now at 30, I accept being ordinary. I don’t think it’s as important to be rich, or be able to afford a house anymore.”

Young Chinese are growing disillusioned and frustrated with work and life. Some are now turning their backs on a crushing hustle culture as they face challenges ranging from rising unemployment to layoffs and economic uncertainty.

While the anti-hustle mentality of tang ping (lie flat) became a popularized term in China last year, bai lan, another Chinese term that emerged online, seems more negative. 

The term “bai lan” is translated to mean “let it rot.” Posts related to the topic have garnered more than 91 million views on Chinese social media giant Weibo as of Wednesday.  

Jia Miao, an assistant professor of sociology from New York University Shanghai, pointed out that it refers to a state of deterioration where “one gives up any possibility of hope.”

Jobless and not many chances to work during COVID pandemic

Miao said tang ping and bai lan show the pressure faced by young Chinese today.

“While competition is expected in society, this is on top of uncertainty caused by the pandemic and … it’s been much harder this year for young people to find jobs.” 

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate for people between 16 and 24 was nearly 20% in July, far higher than the 5.6% national urban unemployment rate. 

The unemployment rate for that age group was 16.2% in 2021

China’s economy is experiencing a significant downturn, and many experts are skeptical that it will be able to meet its full-year growth target of about 5.5%. Moreover, only 0.4% of the Chinese economy expanded in the second quarter due to the nation’s rigorous “zero-COVID” policy.

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