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Over the past year or so, young Chinese "refuseniks" have been swearing off marriage, children and mortgages – rejecting traditional milestones on the path to adulthood – amid apparent despair over their futures, the economic outlook and politics.

But recent social media posts show that they’ve added several more “don’ts” to the list. They include not donating blood, not giving to charity, not playing the lottery, not investing money, including in property, and even not helping an elderly person -- largely because they're afraid they might get exploited or trapped.

The list, dubbed the “10 Don’ts” of young people, has been circulating on social media.

"This generation of young people have no hope, so they don't bother working hard any more," said a university graduate who gave only the surname Wang for fear of reprisals. "They might as well just lie down in the hope of a stress-free life."

The attitude is particularly problematic for the ruling Communist Party as it tries to encourage people to use the internet to share "positive" content, particularly about the economy, rather than complaining about how hard their lives are.

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Young workers rest outside a shopping mall in Beijing, Jan. 17, 2024. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Author and political essayist Yu Jie said the refusal to marry and have kids is linked to young people's disillusionment with the Chinese government and the way it manipulates them to believe they are the future of the nation, when actually they are merely its tools.

"No young person today believes in the lies of Mao Zedong or his successor Xi Jinping," Yu wrote in a commentary for RFA Mandarin. 

Motivated by fear

Many Chinese don’t want to donate blood because they fear the data could be used to force them into donating organs for the elite, said a resident of the eastern province of Shandong who gave only the surname Lu for fear of reprisals. 

People worry that if they get into an accident, their organs will be taken without their consent if information about their blood type is available to the authorities, she said.

"The reason they won't donate to charity is that they can barely support themselves, and that they need donations themselves," Lu said, summarizing some of the many comments on the topic that were no longer visible on Weibo on Tuesday.

The resistance to  investing in property is linked to overpricing and the fear of becoming a "mortgage slave," current affairs commentator Tianluke told RFA Mandarin, using his pen-name “Pilgrim” for fear of reprisals.

"The economic situation in China is very bad right now," Tianluke said. "A lot of people have been laid off, and there are a lot of graduates who are unemployed."

And some people are afraid of helping an elderly person in trouble in case they get accused of causing the problem they’re trying to address. It's a “manifestation of the collapse of trust ... in Chinese society," he said. 

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A young couple walk by a construction site near office buildings in the Central Business District in Beijing on March 2, 2024. (Andy Wong/AP)

Yu, the essayist who wrote a Dec. 29 column for RFA Mandarin, said the various "don'ts" are all about avoiding the various “traps” set by the Communist Party – meaning people getting caught up in a system that exploits them for the benefit of the privileged political and financial elite. 

"Things such as donating money to charity, donating blood, and helping the elderly are all good deeds that are taken for granted in civilized countries," he wrote. "But in China, they are all taken advantage of."

"The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer,” Yu wrote. “That's why young Chinese people warn each other to avoid these traps to avoid disaster."

‘Kids have no future’

Meanwhile, censors have deleted an article that questions the value of hothousing children through the highly competitive education system -- a defining behavior of the country's middle class.

The article, titled "Middle-class kids have no future," was unavailable “due to violations of regulations” on Tuesday, though copies were still visible outside China's Great Firewall of internet censorship.

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People tour by a deserted shopping mall in Beijing on Feb. 19, 2024. (Andy Wong/AP)

The blog post tells the tale of a successful Shanghai parent whose son didn't want to study any more, because he wasn't naturally good at passing exams, and didn't see the point. He started delivering food in the evenings instead, to earn some money.

In a follow-up post in which he reports that the article has been taken down, the blogger argues that only gifted kids should compete for spots at top schools, because the rest are effectively only there as “cannon fodder” for the competitive system.

"It's the middle-class trap, isn't it?" commented X user @passi0nateGirl under RFA’s X post about the article. "Nowadays, the middle class can wind up back in poverty due to sickness, unemployment, a property crash, badly performing stocks, or a company partner running away."

Translated with additional reporting by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By Gu Ting for RFA Mandarin.

Citations

[1]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/refuseniks-05062023180624.html[2]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/growth-12122023135435.html[3]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/graduates-picky-jobs-03212023142909.html[4]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/china-organ-trade-12192023141747.html[5]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/tutor-09032021120826.html[6]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/sick-11292023111749.html