Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Has Atlas shrugged? Concerned Chinese authorities are struggling to contain their version of a rising 60s style hippie movement, with increasing numbers of young professionals dropping out, ditching their high pressure city jobs, and embracing simpler alternative lifestyles.
‘Lying flat’: The millennials quitting China’s ‘996’ work culture to live ‘free of anxiety’
By Lydia Feng
Two years ago, Li Chuang traded the bustling metropolis of Beijing for the tranquillity of an ancient monastery in central China.
Among snow-capped peaks shrouded in clouds, Li lived with local monks, embracing the Taoist philosophy of living in harmony with nature.
After six months, he returned to the city.
Li didn’t go back to an office job.
Li Chuang is among a growing number of young professionals in China rejecting the traditional narrative of success in favour of a minimalist lifestyle.
Instead of working hard, buying a house, getting married and having children, some young Chinese are opting out of the rat race and taking up low-paying jobs — or not working at all.
This simple act of resistance is commonly known as tangping, or “lying flat”.
These days, Li often practices tai chi in the mornings and, when business is quiet in the evenings, he plays his guitar or guqin.
A national threat
For Chinese officials, it is the exact opposite of what the nation has asked of its people.
The government wants a young generation of patriotic and productive workers.
The Communist Party has labelled tangping “a threat to stability”.
…Read more: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-23/tang-ping-lying-flat-generation-rejecting-chinas-work-culture/100477716
The USA and the West eventually accepted the hippie movement, and the movement itself lost a lot of momentum. Some hippies are still around, but more as part of the landscape than as agents of radical change.
China’s adjustment may not be so straightforward. Demographically, China is an unbalanced disaster, thanks to decades of the CCP enforcing a one child family policy. They absolutely need every able bodied youth to work their butts off, or the whole pack of cards could collapse.
How do you convince members of a growing back to nature hippie movement to go back to work? Sure, China could round them up and force them at gunpoint to join the Uyghur slaves mining coal or picking cotton in Xinjiang, but these are skilled, professional people – it is their minds, their creativity, their mental product which China desperately needs, not low value physical labour extracted by force in some squalid work camp.
In the book Atlas Shrugged, participants in the strike of the mind did not necessarily withhold their physical labour, many of them still took menial jobs, to provide for their basic needs. But participants in the plot absolutely refused to give the looters their minds, to allow the looters to profit from their professional skills. In the story the mass withdrawal of professional skills eventually led to the downfall of the looter’s society.
Time will tell what this growing strike of the mind will do to China.