China’s youth have started an online movement encouraging a philosophy of being lazy, called “touching fish”, in their fight against the country’s “996” work culture.

The term “touching fish” stems from a Chinese proverb that says “muddy waters make it easy to catch fish”, which translates as one should take advantage of a crisis to chase personal gain.

China’s Generation Z are pushing back against the 996 working hour system where employees are required to work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.


Taking advantage of the Covid-19 global crises, the slowdown at work is a cultural shift from long working hours with little gain.

Chinese youth have taken to social media where comments in a viral thread on Weibo say that not working hard is everyone’s basic right.

“There’s a joke in the tech industry: if you work hard before 35 as an engineer in a food delivery company, then after 35 you are the delivery guy,” Suji Yan, the 25-year-old chief executive of tech start-up, told The Guardian.

“I’ve heard of people being fired after 35 because they spent less time in the company because they have families to look after and they have less energy than the younger people,” said Yan.


Despite labour law stating work should be no more than 44 hours a week for no more than eight hours a day, the 996 system continues to be widespread in the tech and food delivery industries.

“The fundamental reason for me to do that is that I no longer believe that I can get a promotion in my current company by hard work and ability.

“It’s not that I don’t do my job well. Touching fish to resist 996 is nothing more than a kind of non-violent non-cooperation in a harsh working environment and a difficult process of safeguarding rights,” said a Weibo user.

By: Shifaan Ryklief for ANA