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“Lying Flat”: A Silent Protest in China Reveals a Desperation for Freedom

Aug. 7, 2021 |   By Li Jia

(Minghui.org) If you've been around Chinese netizens lately, you might have come across a strange term: “lying flat.” As with many popular slang terms, lying flat came from the younger generations, and specifically out of the pressures and difficulties faced by Chinese youth. 

Out of their dissatisfaction with society, as well as seeing no way out of their situation, many young adults in China have chosen to live as passively as possible, as a silent protest against the current system as well as the social status quo. They call this act of protest “lying flat.” 

The Origins of the Lying Flat Movement

The origin of the “lying flat” movement was an online article called “Lying Flat is Justice,” which resonated with many young people in China.

The author of the article, known by his online handle “A Kind Traveler,” tried to keep his monthly expenses down to about 200 yuan (or $31). He works for only one to two months a year, acting as a corpse for film productions at Hengdian Film and Television Studios (quite literally “lying flat”). Although A Kind Traveler does work out and travel, in most aspects of his life he insists on spending as little money as possible and living at a slow pace – what he calls “lying flat.”

The lying flat movement has spread like wildfire on the Internet and has received great support among young people. Followers of the movement emphasize not buying a house, not buying a car, not getting married or having children, avoiding expenses, and maintaining a minimum living standard.

A video snippet on the Internet depicts a young man lying leisurely under a roadside bridge. When a reporter interviewed the man, he explained his lying flat credo, with a smile on his face. 

This 35-year-old man said that when he first graduated, he had worked hard. But his wages could not keep up with house prices, leaving him unable to afford an apartment, ever. 

“What’s more terrifying than poverty is the fact that you can’t see hope,” said the young man. “So now that I've figured life out, I’ll just be a carefree young man who does not struggle, shout, or complain; I won't get married, have children, or buy an apartment. Lying down quietly like this is what I will do.”

Lying Flat: A Danger to the Economy?

What seemed to be a harmless fad of young people quickly attracted the attention of the CCP. Southern Daily published an article titled “It's Shameful to Lie Flat. Where is Your Sense of Justice?” It calls on young people to fight for what they want. The Hubei TV Economic Channel took a harder approach: “It's all right to accept fate. But lying flat is simply unacceptable.”

It seems that this movement has made the Communist Party anxious. In China, there is an implicit arrangement between the ruling authority and ordinary Chinese citizens. The people are not allowed to interfere in public affairs and are barred from promoting democracy, rule of law, and human rights. But at the same time, they have to work hard to feed the CCP. If the young people do not produce and spend, it will negatively impact economic growth.

Chinese netizens have a very thorough understanding of this unspoken agreement. 

“The Communist Party allows the people to ridicule themselves for being exploited and robbed, but somehow lying flat is an issue. It's all because lying flat points out the injustices in our society.” 

There are also netizens who interpret lying flat this way: “This is how people accept their reality and the false prosperity around them. They stop becoming struggling fools and move forward without burdens, without violence, and without cooperating with the authorities.”

The Philosophy Behind Lying Flat

The younger generation represents the future of the family and society. Many of the Chinese millennials participating in the lying flat movement come from the generation of “little pinks,” groomed to think according to the CCP's framework and Party culture. They also used to believe that love for the Party was equivalent to love for their country. 

Now, even among these little pinks, many have recognized the true nature of the Communist Party and have begun to think independently, choosing to lie flat as a method of protest within their abilities.

By temporarily adopting this seemingly negative outlook, these people are refusing to comply with the CCP in order to avoid being slaves or exploited. In fact, they are more open-minded and positive than many people who habitually follow the Party. They are breaking free from the confinement of their Party education and gaining independence.

It has been almost 100 years since the CCP was founded. In these hundred years, generation after generation of Chinese people have been compelled by the CCP to give over their lives and struggle until they die. Right now nearly 380 million Chinese people have seen through the CCP and chosen to quit the Communist Party, the Communist Youth League, and the Young Pioneers. As many more young people chose to lie flat and not cooperate with the CCP, what does this mean?

Perhaps these young people who are lying flat are acting as the CCP's gravediggers. Though they might not be rich or famous, they are freeing themselves from being implicated by the CCP and going down with it—which is the ultimate blessing in disguise.