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Why China was quiet quitting well before the rest of the world caught on

There are more than 100 million video views with the hashtag “quiet quitting” on the TikTok app. While there is no single definition of quiet quitting, the term doesn’t actually mean giving up your job. It actually means doing what’s required at work and no more. The rejection of hustle culture is happening worldwide, including in China, where the movement started long before it was popularized in the West.

You may have heard about “quiet quitting” this summer. The term, which means doing what’s required at work and no more, went viral on the TikTok app after a New York software engineer posted a video on the trend.

Yet the rejection of hustle culture started in China long before it was popularized in the West.

“I talk with my friends, and they often use that term like ‘tang ping,’ I really want to lie down and I don’t want to do my job and don’t want to achieve something,” said Dian Gu, who works as a content specialist for an internet company in China.

Since 2021, the internet in China has been awash with the phrases tang ping, which means “lying flat” in Mandarin, and more recently bai lan, which means “let it rot.” This has coincided with many young people in China becoming increasingly frustrated with both their personal and professional lives.

Unlike most countries, China has continued to pursue a zero-Covid strategy, which requires strict and sudden lockdowns and extensive testing for cities experiencing outbreaks, confining hundreds of millions of Chinese people to their homes.

As a result, the economy has slowed and unemployment is rising. The labor market has shrunk since 2019, and there is fierce competition for white-collar jobs.

“We could definitely link this wave of quiet quitting and rethinking work, to an inherent lack of satisfaction with what is out there in terms of job availability,” said Maria Kordowicz, an associate professor in organizational behavior at the University of Nottingham.

So is China’s hard-working culture about to change? Watch our video above to find out more.