The Chinese ‘lying flat’ movement (tangping, 躺平)

An illustration making the rounds on China’s internet in May 2021 shows a man “lying flat.” “You want me to get up?” he asks. “That’s not possible in this lifetime.”

The drive toward self-reliance has encountered an unlikely form of resistance in a generation of young Chinese who balk at the Party’s high-minded calls for “continued struggle” alongside an deeply engrained culture of overwork without the promise of real advancement. They opt instead for “lying flat,” or tangping (躺平). The “lying flat” movement calls on young workers and professionals, including the middle-class Chinese who are to be the engine of Xi Jinping’s domestic boom, to opt out of the struggle for workplace success, and to reject the promise of consumer fulfilment.

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