36 Lying Flat – 躺平 (Tǎng Píng)


Anonymous 2

simplified Chinese: 躺平; pinyin: Tǎng Píng

Lying flat

Lying flat 躺平 (Tǎng Píng) is the act of being passive about work.  It is rejecting the notion of working excessively hard to slowly improve oneself. It supports the idea that working grueling jobs or hours is not to core principle of life.  It is associated with the youth of China who aren’t worried about their professional careers excessively.  It shares similarities to the anti-work movement in western countries.

China’s labor laws make more than 44 hours in a week unpaid illegal.  All overtime must be paid.  This has never been enforced.  It is well known that modern tech companies in China have a 996 culture.  This means working 9AM – 9PM 6 days every week.  This has caused backlash within China.  A few high profile deaths occurred which were at least popularly attributed to over-work.  This includes suicides and collapsing from exhaustion.  The government tends to ignore all concerns until it causes instability within the country.  Once it became a topic of public resentment, China stepped in and several court cases against employers were decided in the employees’ favor (Yip).


Besides online comments against the practice, some younger people are seeing the whole thing as pointless.  They are not seeking grueling work schedules and demanding work.  They “lie flat” and treat work as something far removed from the central goal of life.  People are avoiding the stressful jobs.  China’s pressure on a few high profile companies has also caused many others to not risk excessive overtime.  The work place cultures are to blame.  In many countries around the world, it is seen as lazy to only work the scheduled hours in office type jobs.  This is seen in Japanese culture.  In America, the same thing can be sometimes seen as well.  People have started to compare it to growing leeks.  They struggle and grow only to be cut down.  The euphemism shows they believe their abuse is nearly never for their own gain and simply to make massive companies richer at significant personal cost.


Outright resistance and confrontation with the government doesn’t often end well for citizens in mainland China (violent crackdowns, harrasment from the government).  Lying flat is therefore much more passive.  This has created turmoil within the government.  It’s hard to identify and punish people who would choose such a lifestyle.  It would also be extremely risky for the government to even try to punish those people.  They have a good grip on the internet and public sentiment, but they are not in complete control.  This is also easy to see with the way COVID restrictions suddenly ended.  Protests were growing, so the government simply pulled back nearly every restriction without warning.  The effects of China’s one child policy now means there are nowhere near enough people to fill factories, high tech jobs, and carry out China’s goal of being mostly self-sufficient.  They need these youth, so they are trying improve work culture by attacking companies and encouraging youth to avoid sloth.  They actively attack the notion as lazy, un-patriotic, and contemptible (Bandurksi).


Bandurski, David. “The ‘lying flat’ movement standing in the way of China’s Innovation Drive.” Brookings, 8 July, 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/techstream/the-lying-flat-movement-standing-in-the-way-of-chinas-innovation-drive/.

Yip, Waiyee. “China Steps in to Regulate Brutal ‘996’ Work Culture.” BBC News, BBC, 1 Sept. 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-58381538.



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Lying Flat - 躺平 (Tǎng Píng) Copyright © 2023 by Anonymous 2 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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