China -- the land that gave the world buzzwords such as sang and chabuduo -- has come up with another one: tang ping.
Described as somewhat of a spiritual movement, tang ping (躺平), which means lying flat in Chinese, is a growing sentiment among college-educated youth in China’s first or second-tier cities, raging against traditional concepts of success such as a good career and the riches that come with it.
A forum post had described it as living on a meagre income of S$41 a month, not working for two years, and even playing a corpse on television when the mood strikes.
But tang ping can also be interpreted as doing the bare minimum at work, just to get by. Because, you know, life is so much more than work.
Some wise words that originated from the now-deleted (surprise surprise) post on Chinese discussion forum Tieba include:
"Lying flat is my wise movement."
"Only by lying down can humans become the measure of all things."
Or an evolution of the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .
Singaporeans, being a little unimaginative and enjoying more freedom expressing their views online without the iron fist of censorship, do not have the experience of conjuring catchy buzzwords that circumvent censorship.
But the rage against the well-trodden path? Been there, done that, China.
Remember the 5Cs?
All these philosophical musings reminded me of the good ol’ 5Cs that Singaporeans subscribed -- circa the 90s -- as barometers of success for Gen Xers.
Car, condo, cash, credit card and country club membership.
Millennials probably have a different worldview and what it means to be successful.
At an SUTD forum this May, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that young Singaporeans these days do not relate to those material aspirations.
Instead, he suggested three new Cs that will shape the country’s future.
Creating more value for society, caring about the environment and wider community, and charting the way forward.
Essentially, what young Singaporeans are looking for is a sense of purpose.
Money is obviously still important. But it’s also commonplace to hear that Millennials seek out values such as purpose in their jobs.
You’ve probably heard that one before.
The concept of a purpose-driven career is not new. The Straits Times reported in 2019 that young people want jobs with meaning and will even put that above money.
So… what’s the Singapore equivalent to tang ping?
Look, even machines need oiling every now and then. What more humans?
And frankly speaking, a nice lie-down is tempting, especially those working for the Big Four or those who are working the 996 (9am to 9pm, 6 days a week, amounting to a total of 72 hours) culture.
Thankfully, according to a survey by staffing firm Manpower Group, most Singaporean millennial workers aren’t putting in 72-hour work weeks.
But Singaporean millennial workers are still working relatively hard at 48 hours a week -- even higher than Japan’s 46.
But is it enough for tang ping to be a movement in Singapore? Maybe not.
Judging from the evidence put forth, there’s no reason to, if the work people are looking for are increasingly aligned with their own beliefs and values.
With a sense of purpose, doing a tang ping would run counter to the aspirations of many millennials.
But still, some form of balance between work and rest is necessary.
May this millennial offer a suggestion.
Introducing zhan shui (站睡)
Instead, a better alternative to tang ping for young Singaporeans would be to sleep while standing. Or zhan shui -- a neologism coined by yours truly; a local response to the rat race.
Most male citizens would be familiar with sleeping while standing. It is a rare skill acquired while serving the nation.
You don’t really fall into deep sleep a la tang ping, but it’s enough of a shut-eye to keep you going, while being alert to any potential threat in your vicinity (in the case of national service, that would be looking out for the Company Sergeant Major).
A power-saving mode, if you will.
Doing a zhan shui will give you some rest but also allow you to maintain an awareness of the work that hasn’t been done; like how Singapore will forever be a work in progress.
There’s no final state but a constant state of evolution.
And unlike China, Singapore has no vast resources nor size, and it would be foolhardy to do a tang ping. It’s simply not in our DNA.
So the next time you ever feel like giving up and doing the absolute bare minimum, remember this: Is this the life you want for yourself? Or are you just another buzzword-chasing hippie?
Better to zhan shui.
Top photo via.