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Trending in China: Finding Pleasure in the Pain of Everyday Life – China’s Youth Mock Their Own Reality

By Carol Yuan / Oct 23, 2020 05:51 PM / Trending Stories

What's trending?

The Chinese term "打工人," which literally translates as "worker" in English, is trending on various Chinese social media platforms. Young people use the word in self-deprecating humor and related memes have flooded the internet.

What's the story?

The term 打工人,or “da gong ren”, is different from the traditional meaning of "worker" in Chinese, which usually refers to a blue-collar worker. Instead, "打工人" refers to people who work hard in all walks of life. The term captures contemporary young people's struggle and hard work in society, revealing individuals' ongoing pursuit for a better life.

Besides making jokes and memes based on the term, social media users have also created other similar words to describe themselves. For instance people who have paid the deposit for merchandise for the coming Double-11 shopping spree but still have to pay the remaining balance are called "balance-ers".

While a lot is obviously lost in direct translations of these terms from Chinese to English the trending term points to how young people view their lives and their position in Chinese society.

What are people saying online?

Discussion over why this term is so popular on Weibo reveals a variety of answers. "This is young people fighting the stress and exhaustion of life in a humorous way. The ridiculous memes reflect the lifestyle and attitude of the young generation," reads one opinion.

But some people criticize this kind of behavior, thinking that it effectively makes fun of hard-working people’s pain and suffering. "Is it proper to base your happiness on other people's pain and belittle yourself in the process? Who among these playful comments are really in desperate places in their lives?" Another comment reads.

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)

Related: China’s Overtime Culture Rampant Across Industries


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