China’s economy has been in a severe downturn, and the government is seeking a solution. The three top-level meetings related to finance and economics at the end of April lasted four days. According to Apollo News, it shows that the Chinese economy is facing significant pressure.

Early this month, China’s President Xi Jinping urged the youth to bring their personal goals into the “bigger picture” of the Chinese nation.

In response, the Chinese youth has adopted a new buzzword to express their attitude towards life. It’s ‘bai lan’ , which means ‘let it rot’ in English.

According to the Guardian, in recent days, this phrase, along with the “lying down” movement, has spurred young Chinese to reject hard work and grueling competition for a less-than-desirable life.

Now, bai lan has a more disturbing meaning. Instead of striving to improve the situation, the Chinese youth are actively embracing it. It’s similar to another Chinese proverb; ‘dead pigs are not afraid of boiling water.’

Since March, the ‘bai lan’-related topics have been popular among Chinese netizens on Weibo. 

The Guardian cites a Shanghai user saying, “Properties in Shanghai too expensive? Fine, I’ll just rent all my life, as I can’t afford it if I only earn a monthly salary anyway.”

Meanwhile, China will welcome tens of millions of college graduates this summer. But the graduates could face the worst unemployment in history. 

On April 18, the official figure for the unemployment rate in 31 major cities and towns was 6%. 

Li Ke Qiang once stated that about 200 million people are in flexible employment nationwide. The term “flexible employment” refers to people who do not have regular jobs. Their lives are precarious.

A netizen struggling to get a job wrote, “Hard to find a job after graduation this year? Fine, I’ll just bai lan—stay at home and watch TV all day.” 

It isn’t only him. In March, 2.76 million employees in the tech sector marked their status as “left the job” on Lagou, one of China’s most prominent tech recruitment websites. That’s 260,000 more than in December and about 60,000 more than in the same month last year.

The Da Yi Juan News cited another netizen, saying that it’s too hard for young people like him to get ahead. He wondered whether it was necessary to try so hard. 

In addition, on May 31, an open letter circulated on the Internet calling for “no production.”

It was signed by several entrepreneurs and investors in Shanghai. The letter describes the current situation in China as follows:

The internal government’s credit has collapsed. The day of unblocking is the day foreign capital leaves the country and the day domestic capital flees. The large-scale corporate bankruptcy, reorganization, and liquidation will break the public’s last glimmer of economic recovery. 

As Bloomberg reported on May 1, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, stated again at a conference that the company’s supply chain was truly global. He also mentioned that the company could shift more of its manufacturing away from China.

In addition, Airbnb planned to announce its closure in China to employees on Tuesday, May 24. As informed by the  Washington Post, AirBnB will officially stop operations in China on July 30 of this year. 

As the Korea Times reported, South Korea’s retail behemoth Lotte has officially exited China. The company shifts its attention to the Southeast Asia market, including Indonesia and Vietnam.

Lotte announced that it would close its China headquarters in the first half of this year on Sunday, May 22. They are processing the paperwork to cancel the business license. 

The E.U. Chamber of Commerce in China recently conducted a flash survey with 372 European companies operating in China. 

Nearly 23% of them were considering a move out of China. This is the highest proportion in a decade. Meanwhile, 78% don’t find China attractive for investment. 

That’s due to the recent closure of several major cities under China’s Zero-Covid hard policy. The long-term lockdown of several cities has badly affected the Chinese economy.

Xie Tian 謝田, a Chinese economist and marketing professor, said that many firms have no way to restart operations after a few months of inactivity.

In contrast, the State media blame the Chinese youth.

They have attributed the ‘let it rot’ to ‘a result of negative auto suggestions’ and ‘repeatedly telling oneself I cannot make it.’

However, Sal Hang, a 29-year-old creative industry professional in Beijing, supposed the reality is quite different from what state media claimed. 

She told The Guardian that this attitude is likely due to a lack of social mobility and growing uncertainty in China’s current society.

Sal said, “Unlike my parents’ generation, young Chinese today have much bigger expectations, but there are many more uncertainties for us, too. For example, we cannot make any long-term plans for our lives anymore, because we do not know what is going to happen to us even five years down the road.”

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