Some Chinese Avoid Grueling Careers for a “Low Desire Life”


BEIJING (AP) – Fed up with stress at work, Guo Jianlong quit a newspaper job in Beijing and moved to the mountains in southwest China to “lie flat”.

Guo has joined a small but visible handful of Chinese urban professionals who are shaking the ruling Communist Party by rejecting grueling careers for a “life without desire.” It flies in the face of the party’s message of success and consumerism as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding.

Guo, 44, became a freelance writer in Dali, a town in Yunnan province known for its traditional architecture and scenic landscapes. He married a woman he met there.

“The job was okay, but I didn’t like it very much,” Guo said. “What’s wrong with doing your own thing, not just looking at the money?” “

“Lay flat” is a “resistance movement” to a “cycle of horror” from high-pressure Chinese schools to jobs with seemingly endless working hours, wrote novelist Liao Zenghu in Caixin, the economic magazine on most important of the country.

“In today’s society, our every move is watched and every action criticized,” Liao wrote. “Is there a more rebellious act than just ‘lying flat’?”

It is not known how many people have gone so far as to quit their jobs or to leave the big cities. Judging by the crowded rush-hour subways in Beijing and Shanghai, most young Chinese people are struggling to find the best possible jobs.

Yet the ruling party is trying to deter the trend. Beijing needs skilled professionals to develop technology and other industries. China’s population is aging and the pool of working-age people has shrunk by around 5% from its peak in 2011.

“The struggle in itself is a kind of bliss,” the party published Southern Daily said in a comment. “Choosing to ‘lie flat’ in the face of pressure is not only unfair but also shameful.”

The trend echoes similar trends in Japan and other countries where young people have adopted anti-materialist lifestyles in response to bleak job prospects and deadly competition for dwindling economic rewards.

Official data shows China’s economic output per person has doubled over the past decade, but many complain that the gains have mostly gone to a handful of tycoons and state-owned enterprises. Professionals say their incomes are failing to keep up with soaring costs for housing, childcare and other costs.

As a sign of the political sensitivity of the question, four professors quoted by the Chinese press speaking of “staying flat” refused to discuss it with a foreign journalist.

Another possible sign of official discontent: T-shirts, cell phone cases and other products on the theme of “Lie Flat” are disappearing from online sales platforms.

Urban workers complain that working hours have been reduced to 9 9 6, 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week.

“We generally think slavery is gone. In fact, it only adapted to the new economic era, ”said a woman who writes under the name Xia Bingbao, or Summer Hailstones, on the social media service Douban.

Some elite graduates in their twenties who should have the best job prospects say they are exhausted from the “exam hell” of high school and college. They don’t see the point in making more sacrifices.

“Chasing fame and fortune doesn’t attract me. I’m so tired,” said Zhai Xiangyu, a 25-year-old graduate student.

Some professionals shorten their careers, which removes their experience from the employment pool.

Xu Zhunjiong, head of human resources in Shanghai, said she resigned at 45, a decade before the legal minimum retirement age for women, to move with her Croatian-born husband to her homeland.

“I want to retire earlier. I don’t want to fight anymore, ”Xu said. “I go to other places.

Thousands of people have expressed frustration online after the Communist Party announced in May that official birth limits would be relaxed to allow all couples to have three children instead of two. The party has imposed restrictions on births since 1980 to curb population growth, but is concerned that China, with per capita economic output still below the world average, needs more young workers.

Within minutes of the announcement, websites were inundated with complaints that the move did nothing to help parents cope with childcare costs, long working hours, cramped housing, discrimination at work against mothers and the need to care for elderly parents.

Xia writes that she moved to a valley in Zhejiang Province, south of Shanghai, for a “life without desires” after working in Hong Kong. She said that despite having a high-level job as an English-speaking journalist, her rent devoured 60% of her income and that she had no money at the end of each month.

She rejects the argument that “flat” young people give up economic success when it is already out of reach for many in an economy where the gap is widening between a wealthy elite and the majority.

“When resources are increasingly focused on the few in charge and their relatives, labor is cheap and replaceable,” she writes on Douban. “Does it make sense to entrust your destiny to small alms from others?” “

Xia declined an interview request.

Guo, Dali’s writer, said he spends more hours as a freelance writer than in a newspaper. But he’s happier and life is more comfortable: he and his wife have breakfast on the airy balcony of their sixth-floor apartment with a view of the trees.

“As long as I can continue to write, I am very satisfied,” Guo said. “I don’t feel suffocated.

A handful that can afford it will get out of the job almost entirely.

A 27-year-old architect in Beijing said she started saving as a teenager to achieve financial freedom.

“From last September, when I saw that my total savings had reached 2 million (yuan) ($ 300,000), I lay down,” said the woman, who would only give Nana’s name, in an interview on his social network account.

Nana said she turned down a job that paid 20,000 yuan ($ 3,000) per month because of the long hours and what she saw as limited opportunities for creativity.

“I want to be free from inflexible rules,” Nana said. “I want to travel and have fun.


Fu reported from Bangkok. Associated Press researcher Chen Si in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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