Major online shopping sites in China are removing T-shirts and other products referring to “lying down,” a social phenomenon in which young people are increasingly refusing to cooperate with pressures to find a good job, get a mortgage, or marry, among other things.
T-shirts, mobile phone cases, and other items carrying slogans referencing “lying down,” or “lying flat,” were removed from Taobao.com and Jingdong.com in recent days, online shoppers told RFA.
“’Lying down,’ an internet buzzword, refers to [an attitude displaying] no reaction or resistance, indicating a submissive mentality,” the Baidupedia entry for the term reports. “It may be expressed as [a lack of] thirst for success.”
“When young people choose to lie flat, they choose … to go beyond the mainstream lifestyle of working overtime, getting a promotion, making money, and buying a house,” it said.
“There were a lot of T-shirts with the slogan ‘lie down’ or ‘lie flat to avoid being cut down,’ and suchlike,” Zhejiang-based Taobao customer Zhu Ying said. “You could get them printed on mugs, phone cases, and bumper stickers.”
“But they’ve all disappeared now,” she said.
A keyword search for “Lie down T-shirt” returned no exact matches on Taobao on Tuesday, yielding only T-shirts with slogans like “New youth” and “Soft Bunny.”
“Those in power see the idea that you should just lie down, refuse to consume, to work, to marry as particularly taboo,” Zhu said. “That’s why they are intervening.”
“Clearly it’s a sore point for certain people.”
The concept of “lying down” has been traced back to a post made to Baidu’s Tieba forum by a young man who had been unemployed for two years, and extolled the virtue of taking a passive attitude as a form of wisdom.
“Only by lying down can humans become the measure of all things,” the author wrote.
‘A shameful attitude’
State media, which are tightly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), were quick to respond once the post, and the concept, went viral.
The Nanfang Daily newspaper published an op-ed article saying such an attitude was “shameful,” and like “poisonous chicken soup.”
State news agency Xinhua followed it up with a commentary saying that feelings of insignificance and powerlessness were understandable, but that wallowing in such feelings wasn’t a good idea, given that they were in a country full of economic opportunity.
“Young people should have confidence in the future,” the article said. “In this country, as long as they work hard enough, they can still achieve self-realization.”
“Struggle itself is a kind of happiness, and only a life of struggle can be called a happy life,” it said.
“Instead of sighing and complaining, it’s better to try to catch up.”
Beijing-based independent scholar Ji Feng said the CCP likely likens the concept of lying down with non-violent resistance in the face of authoritarian rule.
“Some people are already elevating it to the level of non-violent non-cooperation in the style of Gandhi,” Ji said. “The earliest forms of lying down date back to this.”
“If people do this, they will cause the economy to tank, and it throws a spanner in the works of all of that upbeat [CCP] propaganda,” he said.
“It’s a very postmodern thing to do, a way of deconstructing anything they throw at you.”
Guangdong-based rights lawyer Sui Muqing agreed, saying the act was inherently rebellious.
“Some young people are personally motivated by negativity and rebellion, so the government is very vigilant about that,” Sui said.
“We’re not just talking about a lack of inspiration … but [the critical articles] show that we are living in a totalitarian society, that is intervening in the lifestyles and thinking processes of young people.”
He said the authorities could choose to address the issues faced by young people by improving their access to work and housing.
Man-To Leung, politics professor at Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University said people in their twenties now have already witnessed the lifelong struggles of their parents’ generation for better lives.
“There is a bottleneck that means that fewer and fewer opportunities are presenting themselves,” he said. “At the same time, these kids are growing up to realize they will be required to support not just their own kids, but their parents, too.”
“Faced with this seemingly uncooperative attitude, the CCP has proposed no countermeasures, instead choosing to preach about improper conduct,” Leung wrote in a commentary broadcast on RFA’s Cantonese Service.
“But the CCP could have trouble keeping up the level of economic development it sets so much store by, if the majority of the working population stays in such a negative state of mind,” he wrote.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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