To some readers, I’m sure, the title of the article appears to be intentionally provocative, little more than clickbait. However, when an individual becomes the possession of another, they become a slave. When one thinks of slavery in China, one inevitably thinks of Xinjiang, where literal prisoners have been tortured and raped for years.
What about the Chinese citizens who appear to be free—the civil servants, students, teachers, social media influencers, etc.—all across the land. Ostensibly, these people live in freedom. As we all know, though, appearances can be deceptive.
Take the “996” work culture: working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, for example. In China, the average worker is consumed by work. Exhausted and disillusioned by the constant barrage of WeChat messages and never-ending deadlines, life in China is, by and large, a thoroughly miserable existence for many ordinary citizens.
The country’s GDP per capita might be increasing, but the country’s work until you die mindset still reigns supreme. Some employees working for big firms in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, and other major cities are paid very decent salaries–but, I ask, what’s the point of having a nice apartment if you never get to appreciate it, or having a nice bed if you rarely ever get a chance to avail of a good night’s sleep? This is no way to live. After toiling for 72 hours, from Monday to Saturday, what is one to do on Sunday? Nothing, but eat, sleep, grimace, and repeat the cycle all over again. Forever. Until you’re too old to serve a purpose. School children are treated no different, with many students putting in 50+ hours each week (before accounting for homework).
Slavery is synonymous with violence. In China, beatings are a common occurrence, for both employees and students. Teachers regularly use sticks to punish young children. Sometimes, unfortunately, the punishments have tragic endings. Last year, a 10-year-old girl in Sichuan Province was severely beaten by her teacher. A few hours later, the fifth-grader died in the hospital.
Understandably, the people are fed up. Millions of Chinese have had enough. Officials in Beijing are spooked by a new form of resistance. However, this revolution is a little different. It’s not taking place on the streets. It’s taking place in homes. More specifically, in people’s bedrooms. By “lying flat,” an increasing number of Chinese citizens are lying down, quite literally, and taking a much-needed rest, for an indefinite period of time.
As Jane Li writes, the concept of “lying flat” promotes “an almost monastic outlook, including not getting married, not having children, not having a job, not owning property, and consuming as little as possible.” In other words, not contributing to Chinese society in a way deemed respectable by the slave masters in Beijing. For many Chinese, notes Li, “this is almost the only way in an authoritarian country to fight against the growing pressures from long work hours, skyrocketing housing prices, and the ever-higher cost of raising children.” The people have raised the white flag, or more specifically, the middle finger. How will the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) respond?
If a slave refuses to work, he’s usually punished. Will the Chinese regime, masters of cruel and unusual punishment, take the “lying flat” protest lying down?
The answer, as you may have already guessed, is a resounding “no.” After all, the movement (or lack thereof) poses a direct threat to the CCP’s plans for world dominance. Alas, a person refusing to compete in the rat race would do well to remember that they are still a prisoner of China. The country is, after all, little more than a gigantic prison. In China, everyone is monitored, from Jack Ma to the workers sweeping the roads. In this panopticon, privacy does not exist. People are simply pawns in a game of chess being played out in Beijing.
As Wei Shih-chang, in a piece for the Taipei Times, recently noted, the CCP is taking action. “As a result, party censors have shut down all of the ‘lying flat’ forums on Douban and other Chinese social media,” he writes. “Products featuring the Chinese characters for ‘lying flat,’ including T-shirts and smartphone cases, have been removed from sale.” This, one imagines, is just the start.
Remember, a slave is the property of someone else. They are deprived of basic human rights, including privacy. Their freedom, or lack thereof, is determined by their owners. With China’s perverse social credit system, those who continue to lie down may very well face severe punishment. Then again, these people could always choose to leave the country, right? No, with the social credit system, those with poor scores can be denied airline tickets. Just like a slave master decides whether or not a slave gets to go free, the CCP decides whether or not a citizen gets to leave the country. This is why the “lying flat” movement is destined to fail. Let’s hope that I’m wrong.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of the New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, The American Conservative, National Review, The Public Discourse, and other respectable outlets. He is also a columnist at Cointelegraph.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.