Five years ago, Luo Huazhong discovered that he liked to do nothing. He quit his job at a factory in China, cycled over 2,000 kilometers from Sichuan Province to Tibet, and decided he could survive on “jobs” and around R $ 300 a month from his work. savings. He called his new lifestyle “fixation”.
“I’m relaxing,” Luo, 31, wrote on a blog in April, describing his lifestyle. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
He titled his article “Lying Down Is Justice”, and added a photo of him lying on his bed in a dark room with the curtains drawn. In no time, the post was celebrated by Millennials in China as an anti-consumer manifesto. “Lying” has gone viral and has since become a more comprehensive statement on Chinese society.
A generation ago, the path to success in China was to work hard, get married, and have children. The authoritarianism of the government was seen as fair compensation, as millions of people were lifted out of poverty. But with employees working long hours and housing prices rising faster than incomes, many young Chinese fear they are the first generation not to have a better life than their parents.
Today, they are questioning the country’s old prosperity story by refusing to participate.
Luo’s blog post was deleted by censors, who saw it as an affront to Beijing’s economic ambitions. Mentions of “lie down” – “prick” in Mandarin – are severely restricted on the Chinese Internet. An official counter-narrative has also emerged, urging young people to work hard for the future of the country.
“After working for so long, I felt numb, like a machine,” Luo said in an interview. “That’s why I quit.”
Lying down means forgetting about marriage, not having children, being unemployed, and neglecting material needs like a house or a car. This is the opposite of what the Chinese leadership is asking the people to do. But that didn’t bother Leon Ding.
Ding, 22, has been “in bed” for nearly three months and considers the act to be “silent resistance.” He left college in March because he didn’t like the IT career his parents chose for him.
After dropping out of school, Ding used his savings to rent a room in Shenzhen. He tried to find a desk job, but found that most positions required him to work long hours. “I want a stable job that allows me to relax, but where can I find that?
Ding thinks young people should work hard at what they love, but not “996” – 9:00 am to 9:00 am, six days a week – as many employers in China expect. Frustrated with the job search, he decided that “lying down” was the best solution.
While many millennial Chinese continue to adhere to the country’s traditional work ethic, “lying down” reflects an emerging counterculture movement and at the same time a reaction to the highly competitive work environment.
Xiang Biao, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oxford who studies Chinese society, called the entanglement culture a tipping point for China. “Young people feel a kind of pressure that they cannot explain, and they feel that the promises have not been kept. People are realizing that material progress is no longer the only important source of meaning in life.
The Communist Party, fearing any form of social instability, attacked the idea of ”lying down” as a threat to the stability of the country. Censors removed a group of over 9,000 members from Douban, a popular Internet forum. Authorities also blocked messages from another discussion forum with more than 200,000 members.
In May, China’s internet regulator ordered online platforms to “firmly restrict” new messages on pitching, according to a directive obtained by The New York Times. A second directive required e-commerce platforms to stop selling clothing, cellphone cases and other merchandise bearing the word ‘tangping’.
State media called the move “shameful”, and one newspaper warned against “lying down before you get rich”. Yu Minhong, a well-known billionaire, urged young people not to go to bed, because “who are we going to count on for the future of our country?”
Luo decided to write about the tanging after seeing people vehemently discussing the latest Chinese census results in April and urging the country to face the looming population crisis by having more babies.
He described his original “elongated” message as “an inner monologue of a man who lives at the bottom of society”.
“Those people who say lying down is shameful are not ashamed,” Luo said. “I have the right to choose a slow lifestyle. I haven’t done anything destructive to society. We have to work 12 hours a day in a hot store, and is that fair?”
Luo was born in the countryside of Jiande, in the eastern province of Zhejiang. In 2007, he dropped out of vocational school and began to work in factories. In one job, he had to work 12 hours making tires. At the end of the day, he had blisters on his feet.
In 2014, he found a job as a product inspector in a factory, but he didn’t like it. He left after two years and started doing odd jobs to pay the bills. (In 2018, he played a corpse in a Chinese movie – lying down, of course.)
Today he lives with his family and spends his days reading philosophy and news and exercising. He said it is an ideal way of life, one that allows him to live with a minimum and to “think and speak freely”. He encourages his supporters, who call him “the bedtime master,” to do the same.