The "Great Resignation" in China: A Thief Inspires the Overworked : Rough Translation A video ricochets across Chinese offices, and a scooter thief becomes an icon for brewing discontent. Why is a thief who says he's tired of working viewed by the Chinese state as such a threat?

Slackers@Work: A Song for the Exhausted

Slackers@Work: A Song for the Exhausted

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In China, overwork is common and exhaustion is socially acceptable. Those who opt out of the grind are seen as a threat. Sarah Gonzales for NPR hide caption

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Sarah Gonzales for NPR

In China, overwork is common and exhaustion is socially acceptable. Those who opt out of the grind are seen as a threat.

Sarah Gonzales for NPR

In a culture where working to the point of exhaustion is worn as a badge of pride, many young Chinese workers seek an outlet for their growing feelings around the hopelessness of work.

Then, from deep within the internet comes a viral video that speaks to these feelings: a 2012 recording of a thief declaring to a local journalist, "Working is impossible for me."

In this episode, NPR's Beijing correspondent Emily Feng explores a subculture that has been spreading throughout China via online forums and social media videos.

Can the Chinese government censor these mounting feelings of despair? And what happens to those who choose to opt out of the grind?

We follow the strange rise and aftermath of Zhou Liqi, an unsuspecting hero of the slacker movement. And we meet a young teacher who saw him as a danger, then a joke, and finally as an inspiration to challenge her deepest assumptions about herself.

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