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People’s Daily — ‘Buddhist youths: Stop being so chill about everything’

Not long after well-off middle-aged Chinese men found themselves labeled “greasy” (油腻 yóunì) by millions of internet users, China’s post-1990s generation has discovered its own social identity as “Buddhist youths” (佛系青年 fúxì qīngnián). But don’t be fooled by the name. The term doesn’t actually mean young people are converting to Buddhism — it’s closer in meaning to “slacker,” and describes life attitudes such as having no desires, no needs, and no expectations. People who identify as Buddhist youths yearn to be free of strong feelings. They avoid conflict, and try not to take anyone or anything too seriously. These attitudes in some ways resemble Buddhism thinking.

Xin Shixiang 新世相, a popular WeChat public account, provided a few examples of how Buddhist youths apply their philosophy to everyday life:

According to the post on Xin Shixiang, the concept behind “Buddhist youths” is a derivative of “demotivational culture,” another term used to describe the attitudes of many young people who feel powerless and aimless. But the author of the post defends such attitudes: “This is an effective method for Chinese young people to ease their anxieties and pressures.”

However, just as the prevalence of demotivational culture prompted the Party’s house newspaper, the People’s Daily, to write a tirade back in August, state media has again started publishing cringeworthy op-eds criticizing the youth.

On December 12, the People’s Daily published an opinion piece (in Chinese) that warned: “There’s nothing wrong with young people having a breezy attitude toward everything. But we have to remember, there always are some issues that we need to put our hearts into.”

A day later, the newspaper published another op-ed (in Chinese) criticizing Buddhist youth. “Being demotivated is pessimistic enough, but what’s even worse is stopping yourself from having any sort of feelings, even it’s lack of motivation,” the author wrote. “Young people by nature should be energetic, positive, passionate about life, and curious about the world.”