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How to spot a capitalist collaborator

With the end of the Lunar New Year, people all over China have trudged back to work. Struggling to overcome their so-called “holiday syndrome,” many try to motivate each other by saying: “Soldier on, workers (加油, 打工人 Jiāyóu, dǎgōngrén)!”

打工人 is just the latest trendy, self-deprecating label that young Chinese office workers have assigned themselves, following “996 (jiǔ-jiǔ-liù, working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week),” “corporate livestock (社畜 shèchù),” and “overtime dog (加班狗 jiābāngǒu).” Just like the language of workers’ struggle  that formed the basis of the older generation’s political education, these buzzwords indicate young workers’ growing dissatisfaction with excessive stress, unpaid overtime, and other injustices in the workplace.

These memes sometimes even turn into action, with 打工人 exposing mistreatment by employers on social media, or sharing tips for protecting one’s rights and how to take legal action.

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author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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