Young Despairing Chinese Adopt the “Run Philosophy”

(p. B1) “I can’t stand the thought that I will have to die in this place,” said Cheng Xinyu, a 19-year-old writer in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, who is thinking of migrating to foreign countries before the government’s iron fist falls on her.

She can’t imagine having children in China, either.

“I like children, but I don’t dare to have them here because I won’t be able to protect them,” she said, citing concerns like pandemic control workers breaking into apartments to spray disinfectant, killing pets and requiring residents to leave the keys in their apartment door locks.

Ms. Cheng is part of a new trend known as the “run philosophy,” or “runxue,” that preaches running away from China to seek a safer and brighter future. She and millions of others also reposted a video in which a young man pushed back against police officers who warned that his family would be punished for three generations if he refused to go to a quarantine camp. “This will be our last generation,” he told the police.

His response became an online meme that was later censored. Many young people identified with the sentiment, saying they would be reluctant to have children under the increasingly authoritarian government.

. . .

(p. B3) The “run philosophy” and the “last generation” are the rallying cries for many Chinese in their 20s and 30s who despair about their country and their future. They are entering the labor force, getting married and deciding whether to have children in one of the country’s bleakest moments in decades. Censored and politically suppressed, some are considering voting with their feet while others want to protest by not having children.

. . .

Doris Wang, a young professional in Shanghai, said she had never planned to have children in China. Living through the harsh lockdown in the past two months reaffirmed her decision. Children should be playing in nature and with one another, she said, but they’re locked up in apartments, going through rounds of Covid testing, getting yelled at by pandemic control workers and listening to stern announcements from loudspeakers on the street.

“Even adults feel very depressed, desperate and unhealthy, not to mention children,” she said. “They’ll definitely have psychological issues to deal with when they grow up.” She said she planned to migrate to a Western country so she could have a normal life and dignity.

Compounding the frustrations, headlines are full of bad news about jobs. There will be more than 10 million college graduates in China this year, a record. But many businesses are laying off workers or freezing head counts as they try to survive the lockdowns and regulatory crackdowns.

. . .

“When you find that as an individual you have zero ability to fight back the state apparatus, your only way out is to run,” said Ms. Wang, the young professional in Shanghai.

For the full commentary see:

Li Yuan. “The New New World; Young Chinese Feel Suffocated.” The New York Times (Wednesday, May 25, 2022): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 24, 2022, and has the title “The New New World;‘The Last Generation’: The Disillusionment of Young Chinese.”

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