From lying flat to a TikTok ultimatum – here's your week's round-up

The lying flat movement is also known as "tang ping" in Chinese, and it’s a form of passive resistance against society’s pressures.

❓What’s going on?

Over the past few years, a movement has grown around the concept of “lying flat,” which is essentially doing the bare minimum to get by, opting out of life’s rat race entirely. 

Recently, a study by the sociology department at Hong Kong Shue Yan University found that around 80% of secondary school students in Hong Kong are unsure about their path in life. They also found that a fifth of them have a “lying flat” perspective when it comes to their futures. 

The lying flat movement is also known as "tang ping" in Chinese, and it’s a form of passive resistance against society’s pressures, especially when it comes to today’s intense work culture, high living costs and the competitive, materialistic lifestyle that younger generations are expected to have. The trend is all about focusing on personal well-being and happiness instead of chasing after material success. Young people who are choosing to lie flat do this by working less, consuming less and living a more minimalist lifestyle. 

🤔What is driving this trend?

In April 2021, a post called “Lying Flat Is Justice” went viral on Chinese social media. The poster, Luo Huazhong, said he was living a minimalist lifestyle driven by a lack of hustle and ambition. Instead of working toward the typical milestones set for go-getters, like pursuing a successful career, buying a home, starting a family, etc., Luo was perfectly happy to live with his parents and skate by with as little effort as possible, all in an effort to avoid, and even rebel, against society’s pressures. But in Luo’s perspective, lying flat isn’t just about being lazy or unmotivated. He explained it as much more than that. 

Luo Huazhong lying flat
Source: Luo Huazhong
“Lying flat is a state of mind – that is, I feel that many things are not worthy of my attention and energy,” Luo said.

Since then, more and more of the younger generations are changing the way they see success and set goals. Traditional ideals of incessant hard work and material success are being pushed aside for modern values that prioritize individual well-being, happiness and mental health. A skyrocketing cost of living, inflation, the costs of raising children and education, intense competition in the job market and the climate crisis are all factors that are weighing in on this movement.

🗨️What are people saying?

“Media reports decrying the laziness and lawlessness of rising young generations can be found in every decade going back over a century. In other words, this isn’t really anything new, in a general sense. But the difference this time around is that we are on the cusp of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” and productivity shifts due to rapid advancement of technology over the past 20 years has exacerbated youth unemployment and uncertainty about the future. The most recent expansion of generative AI is a great example of technology that has and will continue to displace workers, especially young graduates, around the world. As a result, we are seeing similar patterns around the world: 

1) Exacerbation of wealth inequality;
2) Increasing disparity in salaries between starting jobs and more senior staff;
3) Rapidly rising cost of living, especially around housing, while wages stay stagnant (or even decrease);
4) The largest class of university graduates ever, leading to increasing demand for jobs.

In other words, graduates have to work harder than ever to get jobs that pay less than comparable jobs have paid for decades.”

– David Bishop, associate professor of teaching at the Faculty of Business and Economics HKU Business School at The University of Hong Kong to TMS.

“I think many of my peers have ever had such thoughts. Obviously, we have much fewer opportunities than our parents due to the global economic downturn. The information on the Internet has exposed me to more different viewpoints, and I no longer firmly believe that individual efforts can change destiny. And I am satisfied with my current living situation and don’t want to spend too much time and effort to improve my living standard. So, there's nothing wrong with lying flat.”

-Sarah Jia, a 24-year-old post-graduate student at HKU to TMS.

🌏The bigger picture – what does lying flat mean for society and the economy?

The drive for innovation and tech and business development set the stage for the “996” work culture – working from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. six days a week. Lying flat is pushing back hard against this culture, with many saying the stress and harsh working environment is exactly what led to lying flat in the first place. This, compounded with other trends like “quiet quitting” (where employees basically phone it in at work with little drive or enthusiasm), could have some widespread effects on the workplace, businesses, the economy and society as a whole.

Read the full story here.

Some of the biggest Headlines this week

☀️Holiday weather changes: According to a study by MIT published in the Journal of Climate last month, because of the long-term effects of climate change, different parts of the world will no longer see the sort of weather they’re used to. In some countries, in winter, warmer days will be observed earlier, and others will see fewer “outdoor days” with nice temperatures throughout the year. “Russia, Canada and other Global North countries will get more outdoor days in the future. On the other hand, developing countries such as Ivory Coast will get fewer outdoor days, so there is a clear disparity between the Global North and the Global South,” explains Yeonwoo Choi, a researcher at MIT.

🇺🇦Ukraine aid update: After a long delay in Congress, the US Senate passed a US$95 billion emergency aid package for Ukraine this week, meaning arms shipments to the country are set to resume. The bill also includes aid for Israel and Taiwan and greenlights confiscating Russian assets to help fund aid to Ukraine.

🇺🇸TikTok update: A bill has been making the rounds through US Congress that would essentially require ByteDance to divest from TikTok for it to continue operating in the US. This week, the bill was passed, meaning ByteDance has a year to divest from the app or it will face a ban in the country. ByteDance is planning to fight it in court, and some US lawmakers are calling the ban unconstitutional, saying the courts will likely overturn the legislation.

🧑‍⚖️Weinstein conviction overturned: In 2022, Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was convicted on multiple sexual assault charges in a case that ended up launching the #MeToo movement. But on Thursday, the New York Court of Appeals overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial to be held. The court found that the judge had wrongfully allowed women who weren’t part of the case to testify for the prosecution.

🇭🇰800,000 mainland visitors during Golden Week: Hong Kong is preparing for an influx of tourists during the Labour Day "Golden Week" holiday, expecting about 800,000 visitors from mainland China and nearly 6 million people crossing border checkpoints. These figures represent increases of 28% and 75% respectively compared to last year. 

💼An influx of new working professionals: In December of 2022, the Hong Kong government launched a Top Talent Pass Scheme to boost Hong Kong's appeal to top-tier global talent. To qualify under one category, candidates needed to have earned at least HK$2.5 million in the previous year. In the past year, nearly 2,000 individuals earning HK$10 million (US$1.27 million) or more successfully relocated to the city. Overall, the scheme approved 46,497 applications in the 2023-24 financial year. 

🪐Shenzhou-18: China is working hard on its space program, with the goal of landing astronauts on the moon by 2030. Three astronauts arrived at China’s Tiangong space station on Thursday after the nation launched Shenzhou-18 from Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi Desert. Shenzhou-18 is China’s 13th human spaceflight, and the crew will be on their mission for about six months.

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Written and put together by Christine DulionAlisha Khan, Elize Lanorias and Krystal Lai.