- China’s young adults have begun to refer to themselves as the “last generation” of the country.
- The now censored hashtag “last generation” conveys the frustration and dissatisfaction of young people.
- It was also used by some to attack China’s relentless push to increase its birth rate.
Shanghai resident Dylan Wang has spent much of the past two months contemplating what his life would mean – and his death.
Wang is single and childless and his only living relative is his father, who lives in Wuhu, a town in Anhui Province, about 300 miles away. Closed in his studio on April 1, the IT professional told Insider that if he died of starvation or suicide, it would take weeks for his friends and neighbors to understand that he was dead.
While he continues to work from home and watch the necessary hours, Wang told Insider that he finds nothing to live on and nothing to wait for other than eating a decent meal and getting a good night’s sleep. He goes on to say that during the lockdown, he discovered that he began to identify deeply with the idea of being a member of China’s “last generation”, a highly censored hashtag that has been making headlines on Chinese social media over the past week.
The term came from a viral video that has since been removed from Weibo, the country’s Twitter-like platform. In the video, several police officers dressed in protective gear appear to be threatening Shanghai residents, saying that if they refused to comply with the city’s quarantine guidelines for COVID-19, some “three generations” of their family would be adversely affected. In response to the warning, a man responds sharply: “Sorry, we are the last generation, thank you!”
Wang told Insider that he admired the man in the video, commenting that “the man was talking about all the young people” when he called his own generation “the last”.
“There are many things that make me believe that my generation is likely to be China’s last or’s last ‘good’,” Wang told Insider, referring to the hashtag. “None of my friends want to have children. And I, on the one hand, do not want to bring a new life to a world like this, and grow up as lonely, useless, and another useless statistic in the country birth rate.”
“Lying” and frustration among the “last generation” of China
The hashtag “We are the last generation”, according to the China Digital Times, has been linked to an underground stream of rage that swells and reaches a boiling point amid prolonged and draconian COVID-19 lockdown measures. Excerpts from now-deleted posts seen by China Digital Times showed a woman with the words “We are the last generation” engraved on the back of her blouse, while other posts seemed to indicate China’s imperial rule and the country’s vertical birth rate drop .
China’s new generation-calling rally may also have its roots in the phenomenon of “lying down”, a mass movement that referred to the revolt of frustrated Chinese youth against the highly competitive way of life. Many young adults choose to “lie down” instead of engaging in China’s 9-9-6 riot culture, where people work 12 hours a day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.
At press time, the search for the term by Insider on Weibo yielded clear data, indicating that the platform had quickly censored “latest generation” posts. However, individual posts that are not linked to the most censored hashtag remained on the internet.
Some posts appeared to criticize the government’s prolonged lockdown in Shanghai. Meanwhile, other Weibo users have used the hashtag as a platform to post posts criticizing the pressures faced by Chinese young people to get married, have children and continue the family line.
“People wonder why this ‘last generation’ idea is something that people of our age respond to strongly. As for me, I admire this man’s courage to express what we all feel. We face pressure to give birth. Women are “Even men do not want children,” he wrote in a Weibo post.
Using the hashtag to comment on the birth rate in the country, some posters have gone so far as to compare having a child with having a “hostage birth”.
“Our country’s history is built on blood. We give birth to children only to fight wars, to work and to suffer. There is no future, no past worth looking back on,” wrote another Weibo user.
Other Weibo posts have blamed young Chinese people who may be the “last generation” of their family. Some posts even used the hashtag to praise the “DINK revolution” – a reference to the idea of some Chinese couples choosing to live a “Double Income-No-Children” lifestyle.
“The fact that we are likely to be the ‘last generation’ of our family is not something that any of us really wanted. The property is not affordable and the mortgages will take several decades to repay. The cost of living is high and rent is also a problem. “Let’s not even talk about sending children to expensive private schools,” wrote the account of another Weibo poster. “And what more? The government does not take any of this seriously.”
The most censored hashtag refutes a long-running underground stream of rage
Insider spoke with Xie Donghua, a restaurant industry executive based in Changsha, who said the concept of “last generation” had been on the internet for months, but no one had coined the term until the viral video. .
“We think about it, but we do not say it,” Xie said. “What’s the point of saying it when nothing changes? To most people my age, the idea of ’talking outside’ sounds like banging your head against a stone wall. But that does not mean we are not angry.”
Similar to Xie’s dissatisfaction, Insider comments on Weibo linked to the most censored “latest generation” hashtag seemed to indicate a deep dissatisfaction with life and the status quo in China.
“We see everything clearly, but we do not have the power to change anything,” said one Weibo user. “I have resigned.”
Another Weibo post seen by Insider read: “Our hopes have been dashed and there is more desire for death than for life itself.”
A Shanghai-based Weibo user – where people endured weeks of lockdowns to comply with China’s zero-Covid strategy – wrote, quoting the hashtag: “It is understandable that with life comes pain. But now “Apart from the pain, we also have a suffocation around our neck that dictates how we live our lives. This is unbearable.”
Writing a short poem, another Weibo user said they were “tired of the future and themselves.”
“The adventures are over. The ambitions are gone. The songs are over,” the poem wrote. “For this last generation, nothing is left.”