Since Deng Xiaoping took over as leader and began an era of economic reforms, the Chinese economy rose by over 10% annually. It was three times faster than the global average. Its gross domestic product increased from $147.3 billion in 1978 to $4.9 trillion in 2009. 

This era also saw a boom in population, China’s population in 1980 was double 1949’s population.

Dialectical materialism is the worldview and methodology of Chinese Communists. Deng Xiaoping was extremely adept at resolving practical issues through the application of dialectical materialism. Those who followed him in power promoted the same. 

Therefore, the Chinese Z generation was crammed with dialectical materialism and atheist theory. Their minds were full of the pursuit for material benefits, with no belief in God and no respect for parents.

This was enhanced by the fact that young people in China today are the only children in their families. So the parents tend to cater to the materials needed for their only child. This factor contributed to some extravagant spending habits among young people.

As the  China Morning Post reported, although China’s one-child policy ended in 2016, the left side of the policy had created little kings and queens in Chinese families.

These little kings and queens sometimes behave unexpectedly.

For example, this one [Video 00:25 – 00:35]

Or this case, from a zhuanlan.zhihu (专栏知乎) user, a Chinese Question and Answer online community.

This user wrote that his mother’s reason for kneeling was simple, begging her child not to drop out of school.

The child said that if she knelt down, he would consider it.

But after she did, the son stayed motionless, ignoring her, and kept playing with his mobile phone with his legs crossed.

RFI cited data from the “2021 Survey and Analysis Report on Chinese College Students’ Consumption Behavior” shows that 54.9% of college students favor excessive consumption.

Sina Finance cited a report in 2020 from Boston Consulting Group that said the luxury market demand from the Chinese market was expected to shrink by 45%. However, it increased by 30%. 

In addition, Sohu cited data from Nielsen’s “2019 Survey Report on the Debt Situation of Young Consumers in China” that the penetration rate of overall credit products among Chinese youth has reached 86.6%.

Since 2019, the Chinese economy has been showing signs of going down, and the Covid-19 pandemic has spread nationwide. Therefore, Chinese youth are also struggling.

China’s gross domestic product growth was around 9% a year in the last two decades, although the data has been questioned for accuracy.

But only with the official data from the Chinese regime can we see that since 2019, the world’s second-largest economy has been expanding at its slowest pace since the early 1990s. 

China’s gross domestic product was 6.1% in 2019. In comparison, in 2018, the economy grew 6.6%.

China said that its economy grew only 2.3%. Additionally, retail sales contracted by 3.9% for the year, showing Chinese consumers remained reluctant to spend.

China’s economy recovered in 2021. China controlled the Covid-19 epidemic while the rest of the world struggled with the Delta variant. At the end of 2021, it recorded a growth of 8.1%.

However, data show the growth had many hidden risk factors. The fourth-quarter economy rose by 4% from a year ago. Unemployment for those aged 16 to 24 remained high, at 14.3%. The most considerable risk was China’s zero-Covid policy to control the epidemic.

Under the policy, China put Xi’an city in central China under lockdown in late December 2021. Since then, draconian policies have become a trend.

Since January, other cities, such as Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and so on, have been locked down fully or partially.

Nomura, a Japanese bank, estimated that 23 Chinese cities in China had implemented total or partial lockdowns as of April. Those cities have a combined population of 193 million and contribute 22% of China’s GDP. 

According to Forbes, the American Chamber of Commerce in China released a joint survey in April. The survey showed that 99% of the members had suffered from the impact of the recent Covid outbreaks. They said the measures affected supply chains, manufacturing, revenue, investment, and staffing. 

Additionally, China has launched a series of crackdowns on several profitable industries such as tech, real estate, and private tutoring, causing distrust and confusion among global investors about the regime’s goals. Investors have also increased their vigilance against Chinese assets after Russia invaded Ukraine and its zero-Covid policy that almost all countries had abandoned.

As a result, Citigroup’s Asia research team found that clients’ interest in China was “surprisingly low.” 

Bloomberg in early June reported that net outflow from offshore investors in Chinese stock markets reached a record $2.2 billion for the first five months. To compare, China had about $32 billion in net inflow last year, an average of $2.7 billion in net inflow monthly. 

A London-based hedge fund had decreased its long Chinese positions to just one under pressure from U.S. clients. A Switzerland-based investment manager said some European pension funds and charities do not want to include China’s assets in their portfolios to avoid geopolitical and governance risks.

Frédéric cited Shan Weijian, CEO of private equity firm PAG, who explained that China is undergoing “a deep economic crisis.” Weijian said that China’s economy is in the worst shape in 30 years. 

In addition, many groups are considering shifting their investment out of China. Such as Apple, Airbnb, Lotte.

The E.U. Chamber of Commerce in China recently conducted a flash survey with 372 European companies operating in China. Nearly 23% of them were considering a move out of China. This is the highest proportion in a decade. Meanwhile, 78% don’t find China attractive for investment.

Amid China’s economy in recession, some young people still spend money to buy luxurious goods despite not having enough money to afford their expenses. What the future holds doesn’t matter.

[Video 0:0 – 00:10] You may ask what was happening. [Video 0:10 – 00:20]

This video depicts scenes of primarily young people in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, rushing to buy their dream iPhone 13, which went on sale on April 24 last year. [Video 1:44 ]

Last year, Apple cited Chinese state media that more than 5 million pre-orders for the iPhone 13 range had been placed. This number overwhelmed Apple’s website in China.

According to data from the Chinese regime, urban residents’ median per capita disposable income was around $1,500. At the same time, according to Chinese media, these phones cost from about $900 to $1,900 each. 

The Chinese government spreads that America is its enemy, but it seems that a lot of young people don’t think so.

[Video 0:0 – 0:15] “Support domestic production, support Huawei.”  [Video 0:16 – 0:33] Nobody cares about him. 

 Sina Finance reported that luxury was aimed at young Chinese.

French media RFI cited Hong Kong’s “Wen Wei Po” about Miss Chen, a Senior Project Manager of a well-known PR company.

Chen recently rented a flat-floor residence worth about $1.55 million. Then she bought a luxury car. 

According to Chen, her annual rent is $3000, and the car costs her at least $4,500 to $7,500 per year. In addition to paying for other daily necessities, she has no money to spend. She can only overdraw her credit card.

The pursuit of a high-end life has made her poor, she can barely make ends meet every month. Her salary is not enough; she just pays the minimum limit of credit cards and sees the interest on debts gradually increasing. 

In addition, China Daily shared stories of young Chinese who spent money on luxurious jewelry through rental apps.

For example, the reporter placed an order for a Channel double C earring and wore it for 10 days. A deposit of $840 dollars was required, and the daily rent was $21.

China Daily cited BCG’s annual survey report saying that 21% of people born during the 90s and after 2000 still rented products during the epidemic. It includes hard luxury items, namely jewelry and watches.

According to RFI, the story of Miss Chen above illustrates a picture that when young Chinese overspend, they are trapped in debt.

Chen’s salary is high, but her consumption is even higher. It is difficult for her to return from the path of over-consumption, especially in an era when loans are easily obtained.

 In contrast, another group of young people has just graduated. They haven’t had time to enjoy anything. They have faced unemployment, the Covid pandemic and tried to escape from lockdown cities.

Since March, the Covid-19 epidemic has resurged in mainland China, spreading to dozens of provinces. 

Therefore, many big cities, such as Shenzhen and Shanghai, have begun large-scale lockdowns and massive nucleic acid testing. Fearing endless lockdowns, many residents have been escaping from there. The latest escape of Shenzhen residents was on July 18.

They tried to flee the lockdown areas with big and small luggage. [Video 2:12 – 2:47]

Some youths even climbed over the fences to escape. [Video 0:0 – 0:30]

But they couldn’t escape. All residents who attempted to escape from Baishizhou were forced to return; otherwise, they would be given a red code. [Video 0:0 – 0:23]

Unemployment hurts the Chinese youth.

According to Professor Mary Gallagher, Director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, shrinking economic opportunities further exacerbate the young Chinese sense of hopelessness.

China welcomed tens of millions of college graduates this summer. But the graduates could face the worst unemployment rate in history. 

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, the surveyed unemployment rate of young people aged 16 to 24 was 13.6% in March, up from the same period of the previous year. This ratio is also a new high in recent years.

The official data show that the unemployment rate often rises every June and July due to new graduates joining the labor market. Still, the youth unemployment rate has surged steadily since last October.

Especially since March, China’s youth unemployment rate has continuously peaked.

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the surveyed unemployment rate of young people was 13.6% in March. It climbed to 18.2% in April, 18.4% in May, and hit a new record of 19.3% in June.

As Sina reports, the labor market for young jobseekers in China is worse off than in other major economies.

More specifically, the unemployment rate in June for the 16-24 age group is 8.1% in the United States, 10.8% in the United Kingdom, 13.1% in the European Union, 3.8% in Japan, and 7.3% in South Korea.

In addition, SCMP reported that the average monthly wage in China’s 38 major cities was around $1,500 in the first quarter of 2022. It’s a 1% decrease year on year. 

Despairingly, the Chinese youth has adopted a new buzzword to express their attitude towards life, although the government encouraged them. 

Last year, the phrase “lying down” movement spurred young Chinese to reject hard work and grueling competition for a less-than-desirable life.

China is concerned about this trend since it will have a negative effect on the country’s future labor force.

During an important speech in May, president Xi Jinping said, “China’s hope lies in youth.” And he encouraged young Chinese to develop great ideas and integrate their objectives into the larger picture of the Chinese people and the country.

Young people don’t seem to care about that call. They made a new trend, ‘bai lan’ (摆烂), which means ‘let it rot’ in English.

Compared to “lying down”, bai lan has a more disturbing meaning. Instead of striving to improve the situation, the Chinese youth actively embrace it. It’s similar to another Chinese proverb; ‘dead pigs are not afraid of boiling water.’

According to the Guardian, since March, the ‘bai lan’-related topics have been popular among Chinese netizens on Weibo. 

The Guardian cites a Shanghai user 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.”

A 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.” 

It isn’t only him. In March, the month that “Let it rot” became a trend. 2.76 million employees in the tech sector marked their status as “left the job” on Lagou, one of China’s most prominent tech recruitment websites. That’s 260,000 more than in December and about 60,000 more than in the same month last year.

The Da Yi Juan News cited another netizen, saying it’s too hard for young people like him to get ahead. He wondered whether it was necessary to try so hard. 

Sal Hang, a 29-year-old creative industry professional in Beijing, supposed the reality is quite different from what state media 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 will happen to us even five years down the road.”

Chinese youth have decided to not have children because they have no future to look forward to.  

A video circulating on May 11 shows a group of epidemic-prevention workers forcing a couple into quarantine camp. The couple cited official regulations and refused to go to the isolation center.

One of the staff members then threatened to impose administrative penalties if they declined the quarantine request. He added that the punishments would last for three generations of the family.

The husband responded, “This is our last generation, thank you!”

This widely circulated across the country, becoming a famous social media hashtag. 

Besides, many of the young Chinese generation currently do not contemplate the idea of bringing a child into the world, despite the government’s tax and income incentives.

Moneycontrol News reported that a survey polling more than 20,000 people shows that two-thirds of most women between the ages of 18 and 31 have chosen not to have children. 

A Weibo user wrote under the hashtag #thelastgeneration, “Not bringing children to this country, to this land, will be the most charitable deed I could manage.”

Another wrote, “As ordinary people who’re not entitled to individual dignity, our reproductive organs will be our last resort.”

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