> More and more Chinese 20-somethings are rejecting the rat race and 'lying flat' after watching their friends work themselves to death
It is 8 a.m. in Shanghai. Scores of office workers are pouring into the dizzying network of the city's metro lines, toting heavy briefcases and steaming cups of coffee. Meanwhile, Zhiyuan Zhang, 27, is tucking himself into bed.
"8 a.m. means it's time to lie down," Zhang told Insider. "Though I don't have a job to go to, so I can lie down anytime. It's great."
Zhang is a Chinese millennial who has joined the ranks of a social movement called 躺平主义 — the "lying flat movement." It's a mindset, a lifestyle, and a personal choice for some disillusioned Chinese youth who have given up on the rat race and are staging a quiet rebellion against the trials of 9-9-6 work culture.
The idea of "lying flat" is widely acknowledged as a mass societal response to "neijuan" (or involution). "Neijuan" became a term commonly used to describe the hyper-competitive lifestyle in China, where life is likened to a zero-sum game.
Neijuan goes hand in hand with China's "9-9-6" culture. The term refers to China's "hustle" culture, where people work 12 hours a day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. The 9-9-6 lifestyle was strongly championed by Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, who once in 2019 called the 72-hour workweek a "blessing." Long workdays are not only common but "expected" of staff, despite China's labor policy mandating that employees not work more than eight hours a day.
There are many ways to "lie flat," per The Washington Post, including not getting married and starting a family, and rejecting overtime work and desk jobs.
"Since there has never been an ideological trend exalting human subjectivity in our land, I shall create one for myself. Lying down is my wise man's movement. Only by lying down can humans become the measure of all things," the anonymous author of the "Lying Flat Manifesto" wrote.
The movement gained momentum on the Douban social media site (akin to the Chinese version of Facebook), which resulted in huge online communities forming, like the "lying flat group," where users would post photos of animals and other creatures in a prone position. Per The Washington Post, the 9,000-member-strong "lying flat" community on Douban was removed by censors.