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China and Covid19

Resisting the Rat Race: From China’s Buddhist Youth to Lying Flat Movement

Supporters of China’s ‘lying flat’ movement says it is a form of collective emotional catharsis, but state media suggest it goes against the Chinese Dream.

Manya Koetse

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‘Lying flat’, tǎng píng , became a hot social trend in China in 2021. It received a lot of attention since, with some media calling it an “act of resistance.” Recently, especially in the light of China’s fight against Covid-19, there seems to be more resistance against this movement, with official media claiming that China’s dedicated, patriotic youth should never choose to ‘lie flat.’



This article was commissioned and produced by the Goethe-Institut for the Standstill Magazine: www.goethe.de/stillstand“. For a German-language version of this article, please see “Keine Lust auf das Hamsterrad.”

 

In March of 2022, the term tǎng píng (躺平), ‘lying flat’, was trending on Chinese social media. Since the word became popular online and was selected as a 2021 buzzword of the year, it has become part of everyday internet language in China and often pops up in online discussions.

By now, ‘lying flat’ has been adapted by Chinese state media and is painted in a different light from how it initially emerged when it was used by young people to address their views on life.

What actually is ‘lying flat’? How has its meaning shifted, and what does it have to do with Covid19, a ‘Buddhist-like mindset’, and the problem of so-called ‘involution’? Here, we will explore these terms and zoom in on discussions surrounding China’s ‘Lying Flat’ movement.

 

“Buddhist Youth” and Other Tribes

 

Every year, the Chinese language magazine Yǎo Wén Jiáo Zì (咬文嚼字) selects the most popular new words and expressions that often reveal trends among young people and also shed light on China’s rapidly changing society.

One of the Chinese top ‘buzzwords’ of 2018 was fó xì (佛系), a term from Japanese that started to be used in China to describe a “Buddha-like mindset.” In Japan, the term emerged in the media in 2014 to describe a specific type of male, “Buddhist men” (佛系男子), who are solely focused on their own hobbies and interests and self-indulgence without wasting any time on dating or love. The term also became popular among Chinese web users in late 2017 after a viral essay1 by WeChat account Xin Shixiang (新世相) used it to describe the lifestyle and mindset of many Chinese born in the 1990s (Sun 2017; Wu & Ren 2018, 15).

In the Chinese context, fó xì youth (佛系青年) mainly refers to people in their twenties or thirties who are pursuing a peaceful lifestyle in a fast-paced society. Despite being labeled as a “Buddhist mindset,” the term does not have a lot to do with Buddhist traditions. Instead, it refers to a laissez-faire attitude where one does not take on any responsibility and just goes ‘with the flow’ in order not to waste any time on trivial things.

According to an analysis by Hongjuan Wu and Ren Ying (2018), the term is not a ‘positive’ one per se, but more one of anxiety and negativity where people are merely divulging in their own interests due to a lack of motivation and loss of willingness to interact with others and function in a highly competitive environment. The authors claim that China’s “Buddhist youth” are looking for ways to escape the pressures they face in an everyday life where so much is expected of them, while they still struggle to pay for housing, medical care, and education – even if they work very hard.

Buddhist youth adheres to three principles: everything’s alright, it’s all ok, it doesn’t matter (image via QQ.com).

Instead of joining the urban struggle and striving for a better everything (better housing, better jobs, better education), they just accept their reality as it comes: it doesn’t matter if you win, if doesn’t matter if you lose, it doesn’t matter if you’re happy, it doesn’t matter if you’re sad. The 2018 popularity of the somewhat self-deprecating term ‘Buddhist youth’ reflects a collective feeling of a certain helplessness among China’s post-90 generation urban dwellers who are trying to take back control by letting go.

The internet age has made these kinds of social sentiments and movements more visible than ever before, and some buzzwords spread so rapidly that they can turn into subcultures within a matter of weeks. Some specific terms and memes resonate with millions of people who identify with them, and they are also a way for people to connect to each other and create a sense of belonging. That sense of having some shared identity is underlined by the fact that these terms are often described as modern-day ‘tribes’ or ‘clans’ (族).

When the Chinese housing market experienced surging house prices over a decade ago, the term ‘Ant tribe’ (蚁族) first saw the light – a neologism to describe a huge group of low-income, urban graduates who are hoping to find a job and settle down but end up living in poorer, crowded communities on the outskirts of the city where the rent is cheap (Michels 2014, 31).

Similarly, the same period saw the emergence of the ‘Moonlight tribe’ (月光族), those younger workers who always spend their entire monthly salary on material things and having fun, enjoying the moment and not worrying about the future. You also had the ‘Flea tribe’ (跳蚤族) (job hoppers who are always looking for the next opportunity), the ‘Latte tribe’ (urban dwellers doing things at their own pace), and many more different subcultures or social buzzwords.

“Out of money” – the ‘Moonlight clan’ referred to those young people would immediately spend all of their wages, leaving them completely broke before the end of the month (image via Doutu).

There was also a major group of Chinese internet users who started labeling themselves as diǎosī (屌丝), basically meaning “losers”, using self-mockery and satire as a form of humoristic self-medication to deal with the hardships of everyday life and growing social inequality in contemporary China. The term diaosi became one of the most popular Internet memes of 2012, signaling a growing disillusionment among (low-income) Chinese youths about being able to climb the social ladder (Szablewicz 2014, 259 -260).

 

Involution and Lying Flat

 

Over the past decade, the Chinese internet has seen more and more memes and buzzwords relating to the ‘rat race’ of modern-day China. Two of the most prominent one are ‘involution’ and ‘lying flat,’ which were also both selected for the annual buzzword lists of Yǎo Wén Jiáo Zì for 2020 and 2021 respectively.

The concept of nèijuǎn (内卷), “involution,” describes the economic situation in which as the population grows, per capita wealth decreases. The term originally comes from a 1963 work by the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz describing the dynamics of an Indonesian fast-growing population caught up in high-labor intensive wet-rice cultivation without making real progress (Koetse 2021).

The term ‘involution’ comes from this book by Geertz, published in 1963.

In the Chinese context, the term has come to be used to represent the competitive circumstances in academic and professional settings where individuals are compelled to overwork because of the standard raised by their peers who appear to be even more hardworking. In a work and education environment where people continuously work harder and longer, increased work efforts become the new normal without becoming more rewarding.

One scene from the popular Chinese television drama A Love for Dilemma went trending on social media in 2021 because many netizens thought it perfectly captured the essence of ‘involution.’ In the scene, two fathers discuss the Chinese education system, comparing it to a crowded movie theater where everyone is trying to watch the show together, until one person stands up to see more, forcing others behind them to also stand up to be able to see the screen. Then people stand on their seats, or even bring in ladders, so that they can rise above the rest. Consequently, the others are also scrambling to get higher up, but in the end, nobody is comfortable. The entire audience is stressed out and they all experience difficulties in watching the movie, while they could have just comfortably watched together if they would have remained in their seats (Koetse 2021).

One photo that has come to represent the concept of involution shows the ‘Tsinghua Volution King’ (清华卷王), which is the nickname of a student who is cycling at the campus of Tsinghua, one of China’s top universities, while simultaneously working on his laptop – not wasting a single moment to stay ahead of his peers.

The Tsinghua Volution King (image via QQ.com)

The generation that is most affected by a sense of being stuck in a ‘rat race’ of socioeconomic stagnation is the post-90 generation. In 2020, a record-high of 8.74 million university graduates entered the Chinese job market while many industries recruited fewer people than before in an employment market that was already competitive before the pandemic. These young adults end up in a pressure cooker where they are stressed when they do not have that top job, afraid of missing the train, and where they are also stressed when they do have that top job, afraid of falling off the train (Koetse 2021).

Closely related to the concept of involution, offering an alternative to the rat race, is the social trend of ‘Lying Flat’ (躺平), also known as ‘Lying Flatism’ (躺平主义, 躺平学) or ‘the Lying Flat Clan’ (躺平族). Young people who believe in ‘lying flat’ are fed up with ‘involution,’ do not buy into social expectations about marriage and children and refuse to participate in the competitive struggle that starts at early as kindergarten and is all about the upcoming exam, the best result, the top school, the promising job, the longest hours, the next promotion. By ‘lying flat,’ Chinese young adults from middle and lower classes basically refuse to sweat over climbing higher up the social and economic ladder. They will only do the bare minimum and believe that upward social mobility has become an unattainable goal (Gong & Liu 2021, 2).

Although lying flat became a popular buzzword in China in 2021 after an online article titled “Lying Flat is Justice”2 went viral, it was already used by netizens long before that time.

“I was chatting with my colleague after work,” one Weibo user wrote in November of 2018: “We were talking about how unfortunate it is that if you don’t work, you don’t have money, and that if you work, you still don’t have money. You might as well stop working and lie flat. No pain, no feelings, no involution.”

Although the term ‘lying flat’ seems to indicate that the movement is all about passivity and weakness, it is actually more about social skepticism and taking matters into your own hands. One WeChat article by blogger Mao Talk (2021) compared the lying flat movement to the views held by the Greek philosopher Diogenes who believed society placed too much value on status, wealth, and material possessions, and was determined to live a simple life. He did not work and never married.

The ‘Lying Flat’ cat (image via Zhihu).

The Chinese originator of ‘lying flat,’ according to Mao Talk, is the philosopher Zhuangzi, who advocated that the best form of being is without a “sense of self” (“no-self”) and “to go with the flow” instead of being driven by social intercourse and power structures. 

In an article published by the Guangming Daily in 2021, author Sun Xiaoting (孙小婷) also explained the Lying Flat movement in a similar light:

“Indeed, nowadays, people are able to look more dialectically at the various norms set by society and other people, and have a more multidimensional, tolerant viewpoint and wide-ranging definition of what constitutes ‘success’ and who is considered a ‘winner.’ They are also able to rationalize or even reject the values instilled by consumerism, success philosophy, and inspirational quotes, and they are brave enough to choose the lifestyle they believe is more comfortable. In fact, these young people who believe in ‘Lying Flat’ are not entirely like ‘salted fish’, and they are also different from the ‘Ge You Slouching’ and ‘Funeral Culture’ that appeared online a few years ago.3 Many of them have their own views on the meaning of life. They just do not want to be drawn into a social system where the order is already set up for them; they do not wish to get into this fast and crowded process in which people are traditionally pursuing the realization of “promotion and salary increase” and “buy a house and a car” through overtime work and other achievements. They are choosing to voluntarily withdraw from the pursuit of success and happiness within this social system, and the inner acceptance of the state of self is the preferred standard they are considering. This also explains why some young people quit their positions in big Internet companies and state-owned enterprises and choose to return to third- or fourth-tier cities to become ordinary coffee shop assistants or delivery riders, which means they take control of their personal time and regain more determinacy and leadership.”

Although the Lying Flat movement resembles the Buddhist Youth mentality and some other subcultures emerging over the past decade, there are clear differences.

Buddhist Youth mentality seems to come from a more negative mindset of anxiety and frustration, with people trying to find some sense of stability by adapting an ‘anything-goes’ attitude toward their life to protect themselves from disappointment and failure while they are perhaps still pursuing a path laid out for them by others. Those who believe in ‘lying flat,’ on the other hand, have readjusted their desires and goals for the future and decided to follow their own path.

 

Going Against the China Dream

 

Chinese official media tried to put an end to the diaosi trend after it first emerged by urging China’s young people to adopt a positive mindset, with state media outlet People’s Daily publishing an article titled “The Belitting of Oneself, Can We Give it a Rest?” (Zhou 2017, 243). Ever since the Lying Flat movement became an online trend, Chinese official media have also been condemning it.

In May of 2021, one commentary published by state media outlet Xinhua called the Lying Flat movement a “disgrace.” Although the article acknowledged the pressured faced by Chinese youth today, it stressed the necessity to uphold a confident and positive attitude. In 2022, ‘lying flat’ is still presented by Chinese officials and media as the road not to take.

In a recent interview with National People’s Congress representative Li Nannan (李楠楠) that was promoted on Weibo, the young delegate shared his take on involution and Lying Flat, urging Chinese youth to embrace competition and choose ‘involution’ over’ ‘lying flat’, since the latter is supposedly only about giving up and spreading “a negative atmosphere.” Another state media news report focused on Chinese under the age of 27 (post-95 and post-00 generations), their positive outlook on their career possibilities and their refusal to ‘lie flat.’

One reason why official channels label the ‘Lie Flat’ movement as such a negative one is because it goes against the ideals of the Chinese dream. The idea of the ‘China Dream’ has been ubiquitous in Chinese official media since Xi Jinping became president in 2013. The concept refers to a form of ‘national rejuvenation’ and a revival of the Chinese nation. At the National People’s Congress in March of 2013, Xi stated that, in order to achieve the Chinese dream “(..) we must spread the Chinese spirit, which combines the spirit of the nation with patriotism as the core and the spirit of the time with reform and innovation as the core.” He also stressed:

“In face of the mighty trend of the times and earnest expectations of the people for a better life, we cannot have the slightest complacency, or get the slightest slack at work.”

In the context of China’s road to rejuvenation, Chinese youth and young adults are seen as the “builders of socialism” who are supposed to contribute to the realization of the Chinese dream by having clear goals, strong ideals, and by working hard and actively start businesses and raise families. Youth subcultures such as the “Diaosi,” “Buddhist Youth” or “Lying Flat” are seen as having a negative impact on Chinese society since they allegedly do not contribute to a Chinese common ideal of socialism and reject the kind of lifestyle that is propagated by the Party (Wu & Ren 2018, 17).

Lately, the term ‘lying flat’ has also been used by official media in the context of China’s approach to fighting Covid19, following a surge in local outbreaks. While many other countries around the world are letting go of Covid19 measures, China is still adhering to its strict ‘zero Covid’ strategy, with millions of people facing yet another lockdown. It has triggered online discussions on whether the aggressive measures taken to prevent further spread of the virus are really the way forward for China’s Covid approach. But after the renowned Chinese doctor Zhang Wenhong stated that China cannot “lie flat” at this point of the Covid19 outbreak due to the potential death toll it might cause, a related hashtag went trending on social media platform Weibo (“Zhang Wenhong Does Not Agree with Lying Flat” #张文宏不同意躺平#).

The term was previously used in a similar way by the Communist Youth League, which published a post on social media titled “Modern-day Youth Should Never Choose to Lie Flat” (“当代年轻人从未选择躺平”). In their post, the League honored China’s young frontline health workers, soldiers, scientists, and those defending the motherland with their lives, writing:

“They have faith, they have dreams, they face the struggle, they are dedicated – they never choose to ‘lie flat’!”

“Contemporary youth [should] never choose to “lie flat”” online poster by Communist Youth League.

By construing a clear distinction between those fighting for the nation and those “lying flat,” Chinese media suggest that ‘lying flat’ is an unpatriotic act, a type of behavior that shows a lack of devotion to one’s country.

While those ‘lying flat’ are criticized, those ‘going against the tide’ are praised; nìxíngzhě (逆行者) is another buzzword from 2020 often used by state media to describe frontline workers and others as the ‘people going backward’, referring to those who dare to go back and face problems when everyone else is turning away.

‘Nìxíngzhě’ is a buzzword to describe the heroes going ‘backward’, facing the problems that others are turning away from.

The state media message that ‘lying flat’ is counterproductive seems to resonate with many online commenters. Although the movement was previously described as an “act of resistance” by Washington  Post and other media, there now seems to be more resistance against this form of resistance.

Nevertheless, there is still a huge group of netizens supporting the ‘lying flat’ movement for the ideas it represents. One Weibo user says that the ‘Lie Flat’ movement should be viewed as an online “collective emotional catharsis” that helps people pull through their everyday life. Another post by one popular blogger that recently gained some traction online said:

“The post-1990 generation has seen the Foxconn Suicides, they saw the tragedy behind the [Bytedance] worker who collapsed, they’ve seen the world and have now discovered, the most important thing is to live (..). The capitalist exploitation has forced young people on the road of a ‘Buddhist mindset’. Are they resisting capital or are they forced to ‘lie flat’? That’s the essence of the problem.”

One commenter responded: “We are living in a socialist country, but judging the way in which workers are treated it might as well be a capitalist society.”

Ironically, not too long after tǎng píng or ‘lying flat’ became a buzzword, news came out that Chinese tech giant Alibaba had applied for trademark registration of tǎng píng to create an e-commerce app by that very same name.

Many people mocked the move. One person wrote: “You are shameless.” Another comment said: “The implied meaning behind ‘lying flat’ is about wanting less and reducing consumerism, but you capitalists really seize every opportunity, you are even willing to squeeze the last bit of values out of young people.”

Despite the changing meaning and different views on the Lie Flat trend in China’s online environment, one Chinese news article on the issue recently captured a common ground: “We need to find a balance in between ‘involution’ and ‘lying flat,’ so that life can be full of colors while also leaving blank spaces, because you can only find your best life when you can find the balance between tension and relaxation.”

 

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

Footnotes:

1 Title:  “The First Batch of the Post-90s Generation Has Taken the Cloth” (“第一批 90 后已经出家了”).

2 “躺平即是正义” (“Lying Flat is Justice”) was written by a blogger named “Kind-hearted Traveler” (好心的旅行家) on April 17, 2021. In the article, they described how they lead a minimalist lifestyle and explained the lying flat subculture as an alternative approach in life.

3 ‘Salted Fish Mentality,’ ‘Ge You-esque Slouching’ and ‘Funeral Culture’ are all buzzwords and online trends used by netizens since 2016 to express a sense of passivity and laziness in response to the ruthless job market and pressure to marry (also see Colville 2021).

References:

Colville, Alex. 2021. “Stop Trying to Make ‘Lying Flat’ Happen!” The World of Chinese, June 10 https://www.theworldofchinese.com/2021/06/stop-trying-to-make-lying-flat-happen/ [March 15, 2022].

Gong, Jing and Tingting Liu. 2021. “Decadence and Relational Freedom among China’s Gay Migrants: Subverting heteronormativity by ‘lying flat’.” China Information (December): 1-21.

Koetse, Manya. 2021. “The Concept of ‘Involution’ (Nèijuǎn) on Chinese Social Media.” What’s on Weibo, April 22 https://www.whatsonweibo.com/the-concept-of-involution-neijuan-on-chinese-social-media/ [March 13, 2022].

Mao Talk. 2021. “躺平主义:历史、现实、真相 [Lying Flat-ism: History, Reality, Truth.” WeChat, June 26 https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MzIxMDQ5NTQ3OA==&mid=2247483688&idx=1 &sn=9de2d27e74c354c91470436a9efe194c&chksm=9762f3b1a0157aa705ab15ca7f 4e6a7c8feaa8f8f448a4afae8a23db2c8009975a3b29fd2cee&scene=21#wechat_redirect [March 13, 2022].

Michels, Veronique. 2014. China Online: Netspeak and Wordplay used by over 700 million Chinese Internet Users. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.

Sun, Xiaoting. 2021. “拒绝’内卷’年轻人开始信奉’躺平学’了? [Refusing Involution, Are Young People Starting to Believe in ‘Lying Flatology’”?]” (In Chinese). Guangming Daily, May 15 https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s?__biz=MjM5NzM0MzQ4MQ==&mid=2654670779&idx =1&sn=f9e01056429a196c701a223580d2a1aa&chksm=bd14d62d8a635f3b42b2c6fe04175fd807d1017a6a0d030fbc7bc995cb8f36aaede7bfdf78f2&scene=0&xtrack=1#rd [March 14, 2022].

Sun, Jiahui. 2017. “How to Be a ‘Buddha-like Youth’.” ECNS, December 26 https://www.ecns.cn/learning-Chinese/2017/12-26/285916.shtml [March 12, 2022].

Szablewicz Marcella. 2014. “The ‘Losers’ of China’s Internet: Memes as ‘Structures of Feeling’ for Disillusioned Young Netizens.” China Information 28(2): 259-275.

Wu, Hongjuan and Ren Ying. 2018. “佛系青年”人生观误区及其引导 [A Brief Analysis on and Guidance for Fever in Buddha-like Youth]” (In Chinese). Journal of Wuhu Institute of Technology. 2018 (02): 15-18.

Zhou, Cao. 2017. “Internet Meme Songs in China and the “Diaosi” Identity of Youth Culture.” In: Ethnic and Cultural Identity in Music and Song Lyrics, Victor Kennedy and Michelle Gadpaille (eds), 241-249. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Any other sources not listed here are hyperlinked within the text.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut USA. Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    confuciuscries

    May 26, 2022 at 5:39 am

    ahhhhh. the acceleration of Convergent Devolution and its infiltration into society at large are finally in play. a big salute from our advanced degenerate brethren of the west who LDAR (ie ‘lay down and rot’) and from the 三和大神 in longhua, shenzhen. wuts next??? when will we all finally transform into balding h0mosexual post-op cockroaches?

  2. Avatar

    charles baer

    May 29, 2022 at 4:10 am

    I enjoyed reading this article .

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China and Covid19

Residents in Locked Down Lhasa Say Local Epidemic Situation is a “Giant Mess”

Manya Koetse

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They’ve been in lockdown for 42 days already, but according to some Lhasa-based bloggers, there have been no improvements in the local epidemic situation. They say there is a stark difference between what officials are reporting and the daily reality they are dealing with in Tibet.

“The epidemic situation is bad in Lhasa, please pay attention,” one netizen wrote on Weibo on September 15, pointing to many new posts surfacing on Chinese social media about the difficulties people are facing in Lhasa city in Tibet.

Over the past week, many Tibet-based bloggers have posted on social media about the local circumstances, and hundreds of Chinese social media posts talk about similar problems in the region. Despite the ongoing lockdown, they say, there are still a growing number of positive cases within Lhasa communities; buses are allegedly going back and forth to bring people to quarantine sites where those testing positive and negative are mixed; they claim that there is an absolute lack of management and control; and many locals suggest that the official reports do not reflect the actual number of Covid cases at all.

According to the official numbers, Tibet saw its peak in Covid cases on August 17 and has since reported fewer new cases, reporting a total of 118 new cases on Thursday.

“I am a bit shocked!” one local social media user wrote: “What I saw was a total of 28 buses lined up outside Lhasa Nagqu No. 2 Senior High School, and then still more [buses] were coming. One bus can fit around 50 people, so there must have been around 1400 positive cases. There was a blind man, there were elderly people in wheelchairs, there were swaddled-up babies, from getting on the bus at 9.30 pm up to now, we’ve been waiting for 5 hours and we’re still waiting now. It’s just pure chaos at the school entrance, there is no order. I won’t sleep tonight.”

On the 14th of September, another netizen wrote:

“In order to welcome central government leaders to Lhasa and to demonstrate the “excellent” epidemic prevention capabilities of the local government & the “outstanding” results of the fight against the epidemic to them, they moved citizens to the rural areas and let them all stay crowded together in unfinished concrete buildings, with all kinds of viruses having free reign.”

On a Lhasa community message board, one Weibo user wrote: “Lhasa has already been in lockdown for over a month, yet our little community has so many infected people that I’m wondering how effective a lockdown actually is? Has Tibet been forgotten? When other places in China have a few positive cases it becomes a hot topic. But what about Tibet? And what about Lhasa?”

Another anonymous poster writes: “Regarding the Lhasa epidemic situation, the numbers were already a bit fake before, but I can understand it was also to take the public sentiment into consideration. I personally don’t care how you report the data, as long as the epidemic prevention and control work is properly managed, then the lockdown can be lifted soon and nobody will say anything about it. But a month has passed already, and in a town with some hundred thousands of people, the epidemic work is increasingly getting worse. Many people around me have never even left the house and inexplicably turned out to test positive. Meanwhile those who tested positive are quarantined together with people who still tested negative, it’s a giant mess.”

 

“Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic.”

 

“It’s the 42nd day of lockdown,” another person wrote on Friday: “People are lining up to go to centralized isolation, Lhasa has been in lockdown longer than Chengdu, but it doesn’t make it to the hot topic lists. People who tested negative again and again suddenly turn out to be positive. Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic. It’s going to be hard to restore tourism here before the end of the year. Before, big crowds would come to visit.

Over the past few days, following a heightened focus on the situation in Xinjiang, there has also been more attention for the epidemic situation in Tibet.

“Please pay more attention to the topic of the Lhasa epidemic,” one person wrote, repeating a similar message sent out by many others: “Lhasa doesn’t need your prayers, we need exposure.”

On Friday, one popular gamer with more than a million followers wrote on Weibo:

“Many have been reaching out to me via private messages, saying that the epidemic situation in Tibet’s Lhasa is very serious. If it’s really like this, I hope matters can be settled as soon as possible. I don’t know if this post can stay up or not, but I want to try my best to speak up and generate more attention to this epidemic trend. I experienced two months of lockdown in Shanghai myself and understand what it feels like. I have faith in our nation, and I believe the country will definitely take action. Everyone in Tibet, jiayou [come on].”

Many of the comments and posts coming from Lhasa are similar to those we saw last week, coming from Yining in Xinjiang. Social media users based in these places complain that many of their posts have been deleted and that it is very difficult for local residents to make their voices heard.

This is different from the previous lockdown situations in, for example, Xi’an, Shanghai, or Chengdu, where people posted videos, photos, and shared their lockdown experiences, either from home, from the Covid testing lines, or from the makeshift hospitals.

On the one hand, the reason why people in places such as Lhasa or Yining have more difficulties in making their stories heard in China’s hectic social media environment relates to the fact that these places have a relatively small population size – while Yining and Lhasa have approximately 542,00 and 465,000 inhabitants respectively, there are 21 million people in Chengdu and some 26 million in Shanghai.

But a bigger barrier to posting about their circumstances is formed by the social media censorship that is extra strict when it comes to Xinjiang and Tibet as these places are considered sensitive political subjects, which is why topics related to these regions see far more aggressive online censorship – even for seemingly innocuous posts.

One Weibo user with over 600,000 followers wrote: “In such a sensitive place as Tibet, I really needn’t worry about whether they’re gonna see my post or not. I posted to vent my anger and scolded the leadership for a bit and within 24 hours the police came to my hotel and asked me to delete my posts. Now that everyone is asking for help like this, they will definitely see it, but they are determined to do this and do so on purpose, it’s clear they don’t care about people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, Chinese official media reporting on the epidemic situation in Tibet stress the collective effort to fight the virus in Lhasa. On September 15, People’s Daily reported how 18 sister provinces and cities across China sent their best teams to Tibet to help with local anti-epidemic work and to bring supplies.

The Tibet-based military blogger ZhufengZhengrong (@珠峰峥嵘) writes: “It’s been over a month and my comrade-in-arms are still fighting on the front line (..). I just hope the epidemic will end soon, and that I will be able to meet my family and hold my children and weep.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China and Covid19

Happiest Lockdown in China: Guests Undergo Mandatory Quarantine at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel

“I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too!” The Shanghai Disney hotel apparently is the happiest place to get locked in.

Manya Koetse

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While many cities across China are experiencing new (partial) lockdowns and millions of people are confined to their homes, there was also a group of people that had to undergo mandatory quarantine at a very special place: the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel.

On September 7, social media posts started surfacing online from people who said they were required to quarantine while they were at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel. Disneyland reportedly had received a notification from the local health authorities that a visitor who previously stayed at the Disneyland hotel was found to be a close contact of a newly confirmed Covid case.

In line with the Center for Disease Control requirements, Disney created a ‘closed loop system’ by locking in all hotel residents and staff members and doing daily Covid tests. While the Disneyland theme park was open as usual, the hotel became a temporary isolation site where people’s health would be monitored for the next few days while all staff members would also be screened.

During their mandatory quarantine, guests stayed at the hotel for free and did not need to pay for their rooms. Room prices at the Shanghai Disneyland hotel start at around 3000 yuan/night ($433).

Some guests shared photos of their Disneyland quarantine stay on social media, showing how Disney staff provided them with free breakfast, lunch, a surprise afternoon tea, delicious dinner, fun snacks, and Disney toys and stickers.

On the Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) app, one Shanghai Disney visitor (nickname @恶霸小提莫) wrote: “We have three meals a day, there is both Chinese and Western-style breakfast, we also get afternoon tea and desserts, they have shrimp, beef, scallops, drinks, French macarons, yogurt, ice cream, and much more. We watched so many Disney movies for free. We are given so many little gifts, they brought us gifts twice today as they also brought us toy figures at night. We watch the fireworks from our windows every night at 8.30 pm. Although we weren’t allowed to go out, we really had a pleasant stay.”

Another Disney guest named Zoea (Xiaohongshu ID: yiya0313) also shared many photos of the mandatory quarantine and wrote: “When the staff knocked on the door to tell me they were bringing dinner, I even wondered how it was possible that they brought food again. Afternoon tea during quarantine, can you believe it? And fruit before dinner? And midnight snacks brought to us after dinner? And it was so nice to watch all the Disney movies on tv. Disney really is the most magical place.”

“I’m just so happy,” another locked-in Disney guest posted on social media, sharing pictures of Mickey Mouse cakes.

Other guests also posted about their experiences on social media. “They probably feared we would get bored so they brought us glue, stickers, and painting brushes, the kids loved it and so did we!”

Reading about the happy quarantine at Disney, many Weibo users responded that they envied the guests, writing: “I wish I could be quarantined at Disney too.”

“I need to find a way to get in, too,” others wrote.

Earlier this year, one Chinese woman shared her story of being quarantined inside a hotpot restaurant for three days. Although many people also envied the woman, who could eat all she wanted during her stay, she later said she felt like she had enough hotpot for the rest of her life.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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