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China’s Tang Ping Movement

Dec 13, 2023 | Daily Trek, Tales from the Trek

China's Tang Ping Movement - Radical Trekking - Ayelet Baron

China’s Tang Ping Movement

The tang ping movement in China, which translates to “lying flat,” indicates a shift in the attitudes of the country’s younger generation. 躺平 (tǎng píng) represents a choice to opt for a lifestyle marked by minimal pressure and simplicity. This is a stark contrast to the traditionally competitive and high-pressured societal expectations in China.

As of June 2023, China faced a staggering youth unemployment rate of over 20%, with 11.6 million new graduates entering a highly competitive job market.

Tang ping was initially popularized by a young Chinese man who chose to enjoy life without being employed for two years. Luo Huazhong, known as “Kind-Hearted Traveler” on Baidu, left his factory job in 2016, feeling it lacked purpose. He then cycled from Sichuan to Tibet and back, adopting a modest lifestyle to avoid societal competition pressures.

Tang ping comes along with the concept of bai lan (摆烂,) or let it rot in English, where young people prioritize psychological wellbeing over economic prosperity. It challenges the relentless work culture, advocating for a more relaxed approach to life and work.

This phenomenon isn’t isolated to China. Factors contributing to this include a mismatch between the highly educated youth population and the economy’s needs. These factors have prompted a significant shift in how young people view their future roles in society.

The movement’s rise extends beyond disengaging from usual employment paths. It reshapes cultural norms and even touches tourism, leading to “lying flat travel.” Free from strict itineraries, it symbolizes the movement’s ethos. It highlights rest and well-being, moving away from the constant chase for success.

Young people now questiion success, stepping away from material wealth and societal status. They consider lifestyles with less desire, echoing Japan’s challenges with an aging population and a youth questioning traditional norms.

China’s Tang Ping Movement: Questioning the Norm

The Chinese government has responded to the tang ping movement in various ways, showing concern for its impact. Authorities have limited online discussions about tang ping and deleted the initial social media post that started the movement. They have also banned the sale of related merchandise. Although state media criticized the movement, some officials have shown empathy, suggesting improvements in the younger generation’s quality of life.

President Xi Jinping stresses avoiding “involution” and the “lying flat” approach. He aligns this with his “Chinese dream” and national rejuvenation vision. His concerns focus on the impact on economic growth and demographic dividends, given China’s aging population and economic challenges.

This response from the government highlights the challenge of balancing economic objectives with the changing attitudes and well-being of the younger population. It underscores the importance of understanding the root causes of such movements and the motivations of the younger generation.

By acknowledging the role of mental health in personal and professional life and adapting to the evolving dynamics of the global job market, it becomes possible to foster a dialogue that embraces various life choices and pathways. But do we dare?

The tang ping movement marks a pivotal cultural and social shift among China’s youth, highlighting their response to economic and societal pressures. It prompts an evaluation of success and embraces healthier life choices

Greater questioning is growing worldwide, and these questions are now beyond external suppression. Yet, many young people feel lost, often following paths without clear direction in the mainstream. We’re seeing it play out in insane ways right now on the global stage where many youth are lost fighting battles that are not theirs. But on the edges, the questioning is quite different in that it is an opportunity to make healthier choices during these times of transition.

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