China has long been known for its culture of hard work. But the younger generation, richer and more educated than their elders, seem to be turning away from it in favor of a less productivist approach. A way of life, even a spiritual approach, known as “chillax”.
The “chillax” movement is the result of growing frustration among Chinese youth. The latter does not benefit from the same advantages as its elders while the Middle Empire is experiencing significant economic difficulties. In June, the unemployment rate for people under 30 (16-24) reached a record high of 21.3% (compared to 5.2% for the entire working population), according to official figures from the Office National Statistics. Millions of new graduates struggle to find a job corresponding to their level of studies, and unfortunately come to swell the ranks of job seekers.
In the absence of professional opportunities, young Chinese reject the model of “996” weeks (working from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week). They aspire to a better balance between their personal and professional lives and, more generally, to pay attention to their well-being. Claims at the heart of the “chillax” movement.
This trend manifests itself in a variety of behaviors and initiatives aimed at putting a brake on our lifestyles and consumption patterns. Chillax fans want to take the time to enjoy life’s little pleasures, whether it’s taking a walk in the park or cooking a home-cooked meal. Whatever the activity of their choice, only one watchword: take the time. For those who adhere to the “chillax” movement, it is a question of living more at their daily pace and of being in agreement with their convictions, even if the latter go against the expectations of the Chinese Communist Party.
Slow down to better challenge
This appeal to slowness to hedonism is reminiscent of “slow life”, this counter-culture born in northern Italy in the mid-1980s through the eco-gastronomist Carlo Petrini and his association Slowfood. Like the Italian movement, the art of “chillax” has spread to all areas, from tourism to interior decoration, including clothing and cosmetics. The majority of posts on Chinese social networks mentioning the “chillax” movement concern the world of beauty products, according to figures from the Xiaohongshu platform quoted by the Baiguan News newsletter.
Fashion is also a market affected by the “chillax” wave. On the Internet, many young Chinese women share photos of their most casual looks. They are characterized by pieces with loose cuts in beige, brown, white, black and gray tones. Actresses Tang Wei and Shu Qi are ambassadors of this very minimalist aesthetic, according to Jing Daily magazine. In terms of beauty, it is the “less is more” (“who seeks the most in the least”) that prevails. The idea is to favor light make-up where the face appears radiant and natural. By displaying a healthy glow, one shows off one’s healthy lifestyle and above all “chillax”.
Chinese youth’s attraction to deceleration is also evident in their leisure time. Among them, walking, slow of course, but also camping and fishing. Activities that allow them to reconnect with nature and engage in a process of discovery. Tasting tea is also a popular hobby for supporters of the “chillax” movement, according to Chinese television channel CGTN. They certainly see it as a way to reconnect with their national heritage, far from the culture of effort carried by Beijing.
The “chillax” movement has not, strictly speaking, extended to the professional sphere. But it shares many ideological similarities with “Tang Ping” (“staying in bed” in French). This movement consists of doing as little as possible in the office – or even simply leaving the world of work – to denounce a productivist and consumerist society. A form of silent protest that is attracting more and more young Chinese