Buzzwords, yes, today we are going to talk about trendy Chinese buzzwords!
Learning buzzwords is a super fun way to keep up with the hottest topics in Chinese society, and understand Chinese culture from many interesting angles.
I have selected a few interesting buzzwords for this series of articles. Today I'm going to share 2 of them with you. Let's get started!
Like the origin of many other buzzwords, 内卷/nèijuǎn initially got popular among university students.
Student using computer while cycling on university campus.
This is the photo which triggered a hot discussion on the Chinese internet in 2020
Soon after it was uploaded on social media, this visible sense of competition resonated strongly with a great range of people who are working under high pressure.
Amid this internet discussion, a concept called "内卷" was widely spread. Let's take a closer look at the word: "内/nèi" means "inside" and "卷/juǎn" means "to roll". "内卷" literally means "rolling to the inside".
What does this mean?
内卷 is not an original Chinese word. Its English equivalence is "involution". Involution is the opposite of evolution. It's a term that Clifford Geertz (American anthropologist) used in his famous agricultural research. Its principal thesis is that many centuries of intensifying wet-rice cultivation in Indonesia had produced greater social complexity without significant technological or political change.
Indeed, 内卷, literally meaning "rolling to the inside", implies the increase of internal complexity, but there is actually no external advancement which can benefit social development.
On Chinese internet, there are a few vivid stories to help people understand this academic term. Here is one of them
Imagine you are watching a live performance, the person sits in front of you stands up to have a better view. What will you do? Of course you will have to also stand up in order to see what's going on. Same thing for people who sit behind you. Eventually everyone has to stand up and watch the show, however, nobody gets a better vision of the performance as a result.
Good interpretation of "内卷", right? Yes, in short, 内卷 refers to pointless competition.
Young Chinese people "love" the word "内卷" because it brings a new aspect to explain their daily anxiety and stress. They are tired of endless competitions. But this word shows to them that most of the competition that they are involved in is pointless.
Statistics showsthat in the first half of 2021, the total number of applicants for the civilservice exam in all provinces
nationwide exceeded 152,500. But the number of people that eventually got employed was less than 3% of the total
the king of involution
Wǒmen gōngsī hěn juǎn。
There are endless cut-throat competition dramas going on in my company.
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