“Lying flat” in China spreading to entrepreneurs: how to write “who is John Galt” in Mandarin?

I’ve mentioned the phenomenon of “lying flat” previously — people choosing to adopt a minimal work, minimal consumption lifestyle.

One could dismiss this as the attitude of “aimless Gen-Zers” — but now in China, it is spreading from the workers to the entrepreneurs.

In a nutshell: doing hard-driving business and going the extra mile in pursuit of profit are now increasingly perceived as a losing game, or no longer worth it. Between repeated weeks-long lockdowns as the CCP continues its Möbius Dick pursuit of the “zero COVID” white whale, the general economic malaise domestically, and export markets shrinking as countries in the developed world diversify supply chains away from China — not so much because of the CCP’s human rights abuses, but because supply from China has become too erratic — … entrepreneurs great and small cash in while they can, downsize, or go to bare survival business mode (“lying flat”).

And besides, even if you become a multi-millionaire, the CCP bureaucracy can strip you bare because of some selective-enforced offense, or because you didn’t say “All hail Chairman Xi, king of the turtle-‘lovers’” with enough enthusiasm… And now it’s even become increasingly difficult to move your money abroad to buy assets the CCP regime cannot readily expropriate…

In turn, the “lying flat” causes either layoffs or a dearth of available jobs, which in turn reduces discretionary spending, which in turn makes the domestic business environment even more difficult…

Steven Levitt’s “Freakonomics” can be condensed down to two basic economic laws:

1. Humans respond to incentives

2. There is no other law of economics

The way ahead in today’s China is no longer through hard work or entrepreneurial acumen — it’s through corruption and brown-nosing your way up the CCP hierarchy. Small wonder the Chinese economic house of cards is teetering.

I’m a little skeptical the system will catastrophically collapse like some are predicting/hoping. But China has some very difficult years ahead of it. No wonder Emperor Xi is looking for anything to divert his people’s attention — even a military confrontation with the West over Taiwan. Remember how the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 started with the Tsar being told what his restive population needed was “a short victorious war”… Of course, it didn’t end that way…

2 thoughts on ““Lying flat” in China spreading to entrepreneurs: how to write “who is John Galt” in Mandarin?

  1. Regarding Chinese Regime Collapse, here’s a fun bit of extra pressure that I was not totally aware of. China is suffering a major drought which will likely impact the country’s ability to export stuff made in China and as well as increase demand for food imports to China

    Speccie article – https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-extreme-heatwave-wreaking-havoc-across-china ( archive https://archive.ph/0yhCO )

    Here in Japan we’ve had a normal amount of rain this year and the harvest has started, but China has not had the same fortune. Also quite a contrast from last year when China had floods everywhere.

    I’m very much assuming that 2023 is going to be the year of famine when this is combined with Ukraine and so on.

  2. Regarding the “short victorious war” concept, I don’t think the senior PLA generals (and admirals) are at all confident that a war with Taiwan would be any shorter or more victorious than the current war in Ukraine. I’m sure they were confident 9 months ago that any war would be short and victorious but I doubt they are now having seen how the Ukrainians have resisted.

    The majority of Taiwanese are remarkably clear that they do not want to “rejoin” the mainland Chinese state and even sites like the BBC have reported on Taiwanese civilians training to resist invasion. So there will most certainly be lots of resistance even if fifth columnists can sabotage some of the defenses. This leads to the terrible risk for the PLA top brass (and the CCP leadership) of a visibly failed invasion. A long stalemate might be spun as something acceptable so long as the losses aren’t too bad, but putting boots on the ground is a logistical nightmare that runs the risk of catastrophic, unconcealable losses if the invasion fleet encounters effective resistance and many of its ships are sunk. Plus of course the fifth column thing can be played the other way too with Taiwanese infiltrators and supporters sabotaging the PLA’s war effort. Those efforts are of course helped by the recent Shanghai police data leak which would allow any nation state that has the data (and I am certain that includes Taiwan) to be able to forge all sorts of useful fake ID documents

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