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tǎng píng | 躺平

Actor Ge You, from China's first sitcom "I Love My Family," has been coopted by the lie-down crowd (source unknown)

Tired of hyper-competition, young Chinese are now "lying down." Also known as "lying flat" or "lie-downism," this expression of resistance to involution rose to memedom on Chinese social media in 2021. State-owned media have criticized lie-downism, and some popular platforms, such as Douban, have censored the phrase and related groups.

Lie-downism arose as a response to traditional markers of success, such as a competitive career, property ownership, and parenthood. It is also an expression of despair at the widening gap between rich and poor and lack of upward mobility. Some trace its origins to a April 2021 Tieba post. However, an Internet Archive snapshot of the Douban lying down group dates from February 18, 2021 and lists its creation date as June 30, 2020. The same snapshot shows posts dating as far back as July 21, 2020. Regardless, lying down really "took off" across the Chinese internet in May 2021.

As hashtags related to lie-downism racked up millions of views on Weibo and other social media platforms, state-owned media criticized the trending term. On May 27, 2021, the Communist Youth League’s official Weibo account posted a tribute to young patriots with the hashtag #todaysyouthneverliedown (dāngdài niánqīngrén cóngwèi xuǎnzé tǎngpíng #当代年轻人从未选择躺平#). Many users replied that they would happily serve the country, but not capital. "Now young people still say OK to serving the country, but not the capitalists," user @颍源居士 wrote. "I'd love to see what happens ten or 20 years from now, when they say no to both." The CYL eventually disabled the comment function on the post after receiving thousands of angry replies.

Key opinion leaders have also weighed in on lie-downism, including Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin, entrepreneur Yu Minhong, and state TV host Bai Yansong. Every one of them has been ridiculed for being self-serving and tone-deaf to young people’s struggles.

On May 30, 2021, the lie-downism Douban group, which had close to 10,000 members, was banned.

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