Young Chinese living balanced lifestyles to counter ‘lying flat’
Shifting attitudes
Published: Dec 28, 2022 10:12 PM Updated: Dec 29, 2022 10:29 PM
Young people participate in various activities like cycling and camping. 
File photos: IC

Young people participate in various activities like cycling and camping. File photos: IC

Young people participate in various activities like cycling and camping. 
File photos: IC

Young people participate in various activities like cycling and camping. File photos: IC

Editor's Note:

As we are about to bid farewell to the year 2022, a year where we lived through happiness and accomplishments although life was accompanied by a pandemic, the Global Times staff of life and culture will share our observations on the cultural life of the whole year to offer a platform to remember what the country has accomplished in the cultural sector and the cultural life that we, the ordinary people, have enjoyed, and to help everyone get ready to embrace the New Year with hope and strength.

Living in Hangzhou, a city crowded with internet influencers in East China's Zhejiang Province, Ma Aishu is a 27-year-old illustrator who vlogs about cycling to promote what she sees as a green lifestyle. 

Ma told the Global Times that "night tours" are her favorite content to film so she often takes her GoPro with her to bike around the city streets near the West Lake in the middle of the night. She says that these rides inspire her art.  

"The reason that I like bike culture is not only because it is greener, but also, just like a Porsche, a high-quality bike is 'posh' to me," said Ma, who rides a foldable Brompton, a pricey bike brand from the UK. 

There are many more people like Ma. As shops closed over the past three years impacted by the pandemic, many people had nowhere to focus their energy, so they picked up cycling to enjoy life after work.

According to the 2022 Youth Life Consumption Report released by the Chinese renting platform Baletu in November, about 63 percent of young people will invest both time and money in self-improvement activities after work, mainly in the areas of fitness, further education and hobbies.

Green, the new lifestyle

The number of influencers like Ma is on the rise in China. They have helped promote cycling among other young Chinese, helping grow the industry. 

RE, a Beijing-based franchised "buyer's club" bike shop, currently leads the industry. Unlike standard sales-based businesses, the brand presents itself as a lifestyle shop with bikes, clothing, flowers and compact cafes all-in-one space. 

"The positive concept of sports can satisfy today's urban riders' longing for a modern, eco-friendly lifestyle," Luo Yuan, CEO of RE, told the Global Times, emphasizing how the Chinese bike culture has evolved since the 1980s. 

The links between "eco lifestyle" and "social value" is not only limited to bike culture, but also threads its way through other creative sectors such as art and design. 

For instance, jewelry designer Qu Jiayi in Southwest China's Chongqing has her own collection of recycled rings made from beer bottle glass and stones. She said most of her customers are young people. 

"The eco trend has been set, and I think the future design trend in many fields will maintain following a cruelty-free mindset, be it for animals or nature," Qu said.  

Slow and steady

Li Tongxin, a 30-year-old manager in an internet company, summarized her 2022 lifestyle as "staying steady."

"Of course there have been many changes this past year," she told the Global Times.

According to a PwC survey in September, due to the rise of new living and working models around the world, the consumption patterns of Chinese consumers have been changing. 

Although China feels less inflationary pressure than the rest of the world, people are also tightening their purse strings.

Li's new habits include spending less on skin care products - a transition from traditional "international brands" to domestic brands. She isn't the only one cutting back, many of her colleagues are turning to Chinese products that balance quality and affordability.

A shopping enthusiast who used to go to the mall every weekend, Li finds that she now prefers to cook at home and entertain friends instead of going to restaurants. 

"It is quieter and feels more comfortable. I like the feeling of doing things at home, and I feel that I can be myself. Also I spend more time playing games at home more than ever," she chuckled.

Staying satisfied 

In the 2023 Life Trending Report from social media and e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the top key words used for people's outlook on the future in 2023 included authentic flavors, simple life, outdoors, home gardens and teatime. 

"Everyone seems to be lying flat, and their desire to buy stuff has decreased. However, if you look carefully at the data and examples, you can actually see that it is not as simple as people assume. Young people's personalities are getting stronger and they want a diverse, natural and beautiful life. This is not lying flat, but progress," Beijing-based social science expert Tang Shuang told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"We are in an 'Age of Acceleration.' On the one hand, people are full of strong desire. On the other hand, they feel uncertain and insecure as they wait for the future, so people are trying to be satisfied with what they have at all cost," said Yan Fei, an associate professor from the Department of Sociology at Tsinghua University.