Year of the Rabbit. Jessica Not Included.

A dragon dance group performs in Manila’s Chinatown during Chinese Lunar New Year, in Manila, Philippines, January 22, 2023. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

Last year I wrote a piece about the Chinese/Lunar New Year. It was a fairly confusing piece, since I started writing it thinking that it was the Year of the Dragon, but it was actually the Year of the Tiger. I didn’t have as good a grasp on editing then (I could still use some pointers), so the title is Lunar New Year of the Dragon. I’ll leave the post here:

I wasn’t very inspired that day. I didn’t really know what I wanted to write about, so I looked up on Google Trends, and that was one of the highest trending things. I talked about having been born in the year of the pig, and about how the people born in that year are supposed to be so reliable, but we don’t want to follow pigs, we want to follow tigers. Here is a random quote:

“People born during the year of the Pig are honest, genuine, and sincere. They have a “heart of gold” and are “most admired.” They are called upon when advice is needed and are always willing to give a helping hand. Sounds pretty good, I hope I’m a little bit like that. But I can see why nobody would follow such a person. “Seek his advice, but don’t follow it. He is honest…what a dummy!”

“Evidently the whole wallowing in mud thing isn’t in the cards. I was hoping I at least had one redeeming quality.”

I loved this image. I don’t know which would be more terrifying, to fight a tiger, or to fight this boar.

China is a powerhouse, but they have some struggles of their own. The movement that I find most fascinating (and heartbreaking) is the “China is a powerhouse, but they have some struggles of their own. The movement that I find most fascinating (and heartbreaking) is the “Bailan” movement among the youth.

Let’s acknowledge the year of the Rabbit by digging into Bailan. I’m going to explain what it is, some of the causes behind it, and discuss the Chinese government’s reaction to the Bailan movement.

Bailan (摆烂), the Let it Rot Movement.

I couldn’t let the post go too long without an image of the love birds. Cheers to the Year of the Rabit.

China has a long history of cultural and scientific advancement, and since the most ancient times, China has held at least 10 percent of the world’s population. With all the advancement came a larger population, and that trend continued up till 1850, when the estimated population of China as a percentage of the world’s population was roughly 33%. The West was terrified of China. Fearing they would overwhelm the world with sheer numbers, colonial powers embarked on policies intended to curb their power, and while the Chinese population kept growing, their cultural influence declined sharply after the spread of opium and the Boxer Rebellion.

But it was important to Chinese people to have as many children as possible so that there would be a large number of producing young folks to take care of the elderly. The burden of care was lighter if there were more people to spread the labor around.

This became unsustainable.

For the first time in modern history, if not for the first time ever, the population of China is in a decline.

This should be a great victory for Communist China, as this has been one of the major aims of the People’s Revolution for a long time, frankly, for as long as this Tired Blogger can remember. I’ve heard many predictions in my time about how things would end up. War with Russia, war with the US, a warrior society of men who waged war simply to obtain women. Thus far, none of this has panned out. What has happened was something I personally never expected, but now it is happening, I feel like I should have. The once child policy, along with the prejudice toward having a son and not a daughter, have indeed led to a generation of lonely men who can’t get married.

But the consequences, as often happens, are more complicated than we had foreseen.

When I first learned about this topic there were a fair number of images of it. I had to search for nearly an hour to find this. But the idea is that they aren’t working, and on top of that they are anonymously sharing that they aren’t working. They’ve given up.

China now has too few working young people supporting too many elderly retirees.

According to “In recent days, this phrase – and more previously ‘tang ping’ (lying flat, 躺平), which means rejecting grueling competition for a low desire life – gained popularity as severe competition and high social expectations prompted many young Chinese to give up on hard work.

“But bai lan has a more worrying layer in the way it is being used by young people in China: to actively embrace a deteriorating situation, rather than trying to turn it around. It is close to other Chinese phrases, for example ‘to smash a cracked pot’ (破罐破摔) and ‘dead pigs are not afraid of boiling water’ (死猪不怕开水烫).

“State media have taken note of this trend. “Why modern young Chinese like to ‘bai lan’?” one recent article in official media outlet asked. “In fact, this is as a result of negative auto suggestion, repeatedly telling oneself I cannot make it… And this kind of mentality often leads people to adopt the ‘bai lan’ attitude.”

Why do I feel like I’ve heard this before?

The Guardian continues: “Prof Mary Gallagher, director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, says ‘bai lan’ is not necessarily a sentiment unique to China. “It is a bit like the ‘slacker’ generation in America…And…it is also a rejection against the ultra-competitiveness of today’s Chinese society.”

Workers producing face masks at a factory in Haian in China's eastern Jiangsu province

But in today’s China, the sense of hopelessness among the young is further exacerbated by shrinking economic opportunities, she says. In the past few months, while…millions of Chinese people were confined to their homes due to Covid lockdowns, [China’s] economy…found itself struggling to boost growth.

“More than 18% of young Chinese people aged between 16 and 24 were jobless in April – the highest since the official record began. “Hard to find a job after graduation…? Fine, I’ll just bai lan – stay at home and watch TV…,” wrote one…who struggled to find work, despite China’s top leader urged young people to fight for the future.

“Kecheng Fang, a media professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, says young Chinese use ‘bai lan’ or ‘tang ping’ to show they are not cooperating with the official narrative. “All these popular phrases reflect a shared social emotion of the day. When people use them, they are not just expressing themselves, but looking for a connection with those who have the same feeling,” he says.”

Bai Lin, or “let it rot,” and tang ping “lie flat,” are forms of protest the Chinese youth are using against the status quo. Set up in a no-win situation, they have learned from things like Tiananmen Square that one doesn’t dare protest. So, they have photos taken of themselves lying down flat instead of working, with something over their face so that they are anonymous. A usually arrogant government is getting the message, although images posted today are often removed by the government tomorrow.

The incredible growth of the Chinese economy in the last twenty years had caused a cultural expectation that if you got a college degree, and worked hard enough with a positive mental attitude, you could have a life better than your parents.

The current dynamics has made that virtually impossible for hundreds of millions of Chinese youths. They worked hard, got the degrees, in some cases got the jobs, but now there is no wife for them, no house, no car. In the end, why work? And even the Chinese government shudders at the prospect of hundreds of millions quietly abandoning the values that were so powerfully integrated.

Causes of the Rot relates that: “Social immobility is behind the bai lan phenomenon, said Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. 

He attributes it to the “burden of the three mountains” — education, healthcare and housing. 

Speculation helped push up China’s property prices.

“Property inflation has pushed home prices so high that “(workers’) salary will not enable them to afford an apartment”, Wu told the current affairs programme Insight.

“China’s ageing population also means healthcare costs are set to go up. “Many people are worried about whether they can get enough support when they are older … So they need to have a lot of money for the future,” said Wu.”

Once again, all of this is sounding familiar.

China’s Response

I take my information from this article:

“Last Wednesday, China’s Premier Li Keqiang held an emergency meeting with thousands of representatives from local governments and companies, warning that China was facing a much worse economic situation today than in 2020 when the pandemic began.” But the Premier doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t always have your cake and eat it too.

The tech sector, which has produced so much of the incredible increase in Chinese GDP in the last couple of decades, was seen as getting too powerful. The jealous Chinese government cracked down on them. Some CEOs were missing for several days and reemerged very subdued.

ABC continues: “About $2.9 trillion in value was obliterated from the sector by April this year. 

“The crackdown has now sparked a large-scale lay-off in the industry, with several tech giants, including Alibaba, Tencent and Didi, sacking thousands of workers.

“Another sector facing a similar plight is education, which suffered a $140 billion loss last year after Beijing banned private tutoring with the aim of boosting the birth rate among the younger population.

The Chicoms busted tech, and then don’t understand why tech had layoffs. They cut education, and then don’t understand why fewer people are getting jobs in education. Maybe if you would STOP PUNISHING ACHIEVEMENT things might stabilize. But your Tired Blogger is not as intelligent as the master minds that have guided China into the dystopia they are today.

I can’t blame the Chinese youth. When humanity has been beaten down so much, for so long, people begin to despair. How different is the West, really, from this society? Are we really that far away from this? Watch the next couple of videos, and let me know in the comments what you think.

Despair has gotten so rampant, we don’t even want to have children. We don’t want to bring them into a world that is only getting worse.
I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain and fear and hate in the world. There’s too much of it. Like pieces of glass in my head.


  1. Matthew Miller says:

    “… a cultural expectation that if you got a college degree, and worked hard enough with a positive mental attitude, you could have a life better than your parents.“

    Boy does that sound familiar. It’s lmost as if there was an organized effort at propagandizing people.

    The ruling class would NEVER offer an illusory reward to meet an unobtainable goal…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Curtiswselby says:

      Your thinking is double plus ungood citizen! Report to the food vats for your richly deserved punishment

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Xman says:

      VERY familiar… :-/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Curtiswselby says:

        You would almost think these ideas came from the same people…surely that’s just a conspiracy theory

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So much good has come from every society on the planet, and yet, we humans tend to focus on the bad – or promote it as good. China is a perfect example, every single ruling “epoch” they have had, has seen the previous one’s entire culture, books, art and more destroyed. How can a people ever become more, if they have no history other than the lies promoted by their current leaders?

    This was a great article, definitely gave me pause for thought! May I reprint?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Curtiswselby says:

      Absolutely! I honestly didn’t give it the attention the topic deserves. I actually love Chinese culture, and some of the very limited history that I know. And I hope the best for the Chinese people. But I’m much more in the side of the youth than on the side of their government

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed, to be very honest as I tell the kids I teach –

        My political stance is easy – you see the box that politics fits in, the left right paradigm? Yeah, I’m the person who is so far away from the whole box…I just don’t care anymore. The average voter affects nothing, period. And if all civilians of every nation simply stopped supporting or acknowledging politicians, governments would go away. They cannot exist without our support, hence why they use the media to ensure you stay divided and they stay in power.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Curtiswselby says:

        It sounds so simple, yet seems so impossible.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Xman says:

      Excellent thoughts J.M., about the importance of History to inspire people to become more.

      “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
      George Orwell, 1984

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Curtiswselby says:

        JM has an incredible blog, you should check it out!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes@ agreed and also thank you CW!

        Liked by 1 person

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