A silent revolt is brewing among young workers in China, which largely escaped the world’s notice due to China’s stringent control over all social media platforms, according to a media report.
2021 saw the initial stirrings of a silent revolt among young workers in the country, a signal that a major pillar of economic competitiveness, may be weaker than they seem. This protest started in August this year with the “Workers Lives Matter” movement that lamented the exploitative work practices common across the country’s biggest companies.
This movement brought to light the infamous 996 work schedule that has persisted in Chinese companies for years despite ongoing public outcry. Despite ample support for the movement, references to it on social media disappeared off the internet.
According to Taiwan News, the dissatisfaction with jobs in China has revealed how unhappy young people in the country really are. Popular trends on social media like “involution,” “lying flat,” and “sang culture” show young Chinese people’s dissatisfaction.
Oxford University anthropologist Xiang Biao has described involution as single-minded market competition becoming a way of life, a fundamental method for organizing society, and a way of allocating resources.
Experts believe that the ruling Chinese Communist Party regime is directly responsible for this. Xiang Biao has argued that subcultures like involution are the direct result of Chinese policies.
“Everyone in China has the same goals: Earn more money, buy a home of more than 100 square meters, own a car, start a family, and so on,” Xiang told Sixth Tone in an interview. “This route is very well-marked, and everyone is highly integrated. People are all fighting for the same things within this market,” he went on.
Xiang explained how heated competition began in the ’90s; the reason people are raising the question of involution now is that the ‘last bus’ (being afraid of missing out and being left behind) has passed.
“The lower class still hopes to change its fate, but the middle and upper classes aren’t so much looking upward, and they are marked by a deep fear of falling downward. Their greater fear is perhaps losing what they already have.”