China will welcome tens of millions of college graduates this summer. But graduates might be facing the worst employment ever. That’s due to the recent closure of several major cities under the Communist Party’s Zero-Covid policy. The long-term lockdown of several cities has badly affected the Chinese economy.
In the face of such a crisis, the Chinese youth has adopted a new buzzword to express their attitude towards life. It’s ‘bai lan, which means ‘let it rot’ in English.
‘Let it rot’ means voluntarily giving up pursuing certain goals, realizing that they are simply unattainable.
Since March, the ‘bai lan’-related topics have been popular among Chinese netizens on Weibo.
The Guardian cites a Shanghai user’s comment, saying, “Properties in Shanghai too expensive? Fine, I’ll just rent all my life, as I can’t afford it if I only earn a monthly salary anyway.”
Another netizen struggling to get a job wrote, “Hard to find a job after graduation this year? Fine, I’ll just bai lan – stay at home and watch TV all day.”
The Da Yi Juan News cited another netizen, saying that it’s too hard for young people like him to get ahead. He wondered whether it was necessary to try that hard.
State media has attributed this phenomenon to ‘a result of negative auto suggestion’ and ‘repeatedly telling oneself I cannot make it.’
However, Sal Hang, a 29-year-old creative industry professional in Beijing, supposed the reality is quite different from what state media had claimed.
She told The Guardian that this attitude is likely due to a lack of social mobility and growing uncertainty in China’s current society.
Sal said, “Unlike my parents’ generation, young Chinese today have much bigger expectations, but there are many more uncertainties for us, too. For example, we cannot make any long-term plans for our lives anymore, because we do not know what is going to happen to us even five years down the road.”
According to Prof Mary Gallagher, director of the University of Michigan’s Chinese Studies Center, shrinking economic opportunities has deepened the youth’s sense of hopelessness.
According to The Guardian, the unemployment rate of Chinese people from age 16 to 24 reached 18% in April. That’s the highest rate since the official record began. Da Ji Yuan reported that even an employee with a Peking University doctorate certificate struggles to get a grass-roots urban management position.