The latest buzzword to have excited the imagination of a segment of China's youth - and contributed to the anxiety of its authorities - is "tang ping", translated as "lying down" or "lying flat". Censors were sufficiently worried that they took down the initial post on the subject that extolled the virtues of a simple and slow life and was penned by someone who professed not to have worked for two years and lived on just 200 yuan (S$41) a month. They also removed from Douban, a Reddit-like discussion platform, the Lying Down Group that attracted nearly 10,000 members, and where advice was given on how to embrace a "tang ping" lifestyle. The Chinese media went to town analysing the trend. One commentator called it "unjust and shameful", others suggested it was harmful to the country.
But Chinese experts recognise that the phenomenon is the reaction of some young people there to an escalating rat race that has spawned excessive work cultures like 996 - nine to nine, six days a week. A Communist Party official from a labour relations think-tank described cultural phenomena like "tang ping" as being rooted in economic and social transformations. Japan saw a somewhat similar development. Years of stagnation from the 1990s gave rise to hikikomori, or acute social withdrawal, among some of its young people. The 2008 global financial crisis led to Neets, young people not in education, employment or training.