Minitrue: Remove Products Touting “Lying Down” and “Involution”

The following censorship instructions, issued to the media and internet companies by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

Hello everyone, I just received a notice from the Network Management Office of the Municipal Party Committee’s Cyberspace Administration, requesting major e-commerce platforms (Tao Ecosystem [all Taobao-related brands], JD.com, etc. are listed, including some friends) remove from their shelves any items designed for illegal sales, including T-shirts, mobile phone cases, bumper stickers, and other items with “lie down, lie-downism, involution” and other words. Please submit feedback including cleaned up data, screenshots of typical samples, etc. to the mailbox of the Cyberspace Administration of China ([email protected]) before June 21st. [Chinese]

“Lie down” (躺平, tǎngpíng) and “involution” (内卷, nèijuǎn) are both terms that have become popular online in China in the past year. Involution originates from the work of American anthropologist Clifford Geertz, and is currently used by Chinese internet users to convey a sense of burnout and unhappiness with school, work, or other societal pressures.  At The New Yorker, Yi-Ling Liu explains involution as “acceleration without a destination, progress without a purpose, Sisyphus spinning the wheels of a perpetual-motion Peloton.” At Sixth Tone, Wang Qianni and Ge Shifan describe involution as “the opposite of evolution.” Confronting this sense of despair, internet users have generated a new term, to “lie down”—implying a passive  response to society’s traditional definition of success and achievement, as well as to the widening gap between rich and poor and lack of upward mobility. Some have called it “a form of nonviolent resistance or ‘ideological emancipation’ from consumerism.” State media has criticized the concept of “lying down,” while the lie-downism Douban group, which had close to 10,000 members, was banned in May. Read more about “lying down” and “involution” via China Digital Space.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.

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