According to the SCMP, on Xiaohongshu, China’s version of Instagram, a search for the term “bailan” gave about 2.3 million results. Bailan means “let it rot.”
On Bilibili, the Chinese version of YouTube, videos titled “let it rot” are among the most popular.
“I am bailan-ing. Leave me alone.” is a note stuck on the door room of a 28 IT worker, Yan.
The term “bailan” comes from basketball, describing situations when a player or team stops trying when they are sure to lose.
“Bailan” refers to the young Chinese’s attitude of giving up efforts facing the deteriorating situation in China.
The term is an evolution of the “lying flat,” which has entered the global dictionary, meaning just do the minimum to survive. The term became so popular that it is now a common phrase used by Chinese authorities at all levels.
While ‘Lie down’ is a neutral and safe expression for the survival of young Chinese; ‘let it rot’ is an estate of complete resignation and ready to accept an even worse situation.
Yu Hai, a professor of Sociology at Fudan University, Shanghai, says the trend has become widespread enough to indicate a real sense of pessimism and disillusionment among China’s younger generation. Such a mentality arose because of the excessive competition in society over the years—the intense quest for material benefits and an empty feeling of sense of life.
Yan said to the SCMP that his tendency to “let things rot” contributed to his inability to afford house prices and high dating expectations. Instead of struggling to meet these standards, he ignored them.
The experts say that, for those in their 20s and 30s, taking care of their aging parents while raising children is a huge burden amid the rising cost of living.
Shi Lei, an economics professor at Fudan University, said that the pessimism of young people could threaten an already slowing economy. “It creates a social atmosphere, and that could be enough to make an impact.”
Yan says the decision to “let it rot” allows him to live a more relaxed lifestyle and spend more time on his hobbies, at least for now.
“From a young age I was taught to be diligent and never give up. But in adulthood, I discovered that this is extremely tiring. Why can’t we slow down? Why do we always have to fight to get to the top?”