Toll Free - U.S.& Canada:  1-800-791-9386   Hong Kong:  800-930-623   Australia:  1-800-779-835
Free online Chinese learning support
  • Follow us on Facebook!
  • Watch Our YouTube Videos!
  • Follow us on Twitter!
  • Follow us on WeChat!
    Follow Us in WeChat by Scanning!
    Follow Us in "WeChat"
    by Scanning
  • Follow us on LinkedIn
  • Explore Our Instagram Videos & Photos!
United Kingdom:  0-800-086-8969   Germany:  0-800-180-0341   Singapore:  800-130-1652
France:  0-805-080-689   Spain:  900-838-906    

Are You Living in a “内卷化 (nèi juǎn huà)” World?

Jan. 21, 2021

Are You Living in a “内卷化 (nèi juǎn huà)” World?

As more and more countries model themselves after capitilistic models, they find themselves increasingly unhappy compared to generations prior. In the world of Chinese netizens, there is a word that coincides and expressesthis sentiment quite accurately.
“内 (nèi)” means “inward,” “卷 (juǎn)” means “to curl,” and “化 (huà)” means “process” and all together “内卷化 (nèi juǎn huà)” means “involution”. In literal terms, it means “shrinking.”
内 (nèi)

卷 (juǎn)

内卷化 (nèi juǎn huà)

Involution is defined as the phenomenon found in some agriculture societies when population growth is coupled with a decrease in per capita wealth and is the phenomenon where human society has been stagnant or unable to transfer to an advanced pattern after developing to a stable form.
Chinese netizens have used the term in a more general sense, however, where over competition has forced all people involved to suffer from excessive and uneccesary stress.

HSK 3 quiz

The reason the concept of involution become popular is because of some photos from several ‘super scholars’. A well-known school counselor said, ”The involution reflects an inexhaustible cycle of energy consumption. In fact, as a counselor, I can understand this kind of competition and the psychology of comparison to a certain extent. However, in the process of communication with students, we hope that students should think consciously and do not let themselves enter this gyroscopic cycle.”

A well-known professor also expresses his concept saying, “Whether relative to the individual, or to the whole society, facing “Involution” is a challenge. Students themselves need to figure out ‘what kind of person I want to be’; while policymakers and implementers of education policies, as well as parents of students, need to think about ‘what kind of people are our educational goals’, what kind of people do we want to see our children become.”

HSK 3 quiz

The simplistic explanation is that China is a highly competitive society. If you don’t work hard, others will work harder than you or work longer hours every day to take your place. In a previous article outlining the formation of overtime culture, known as 996, is a typical “involution” process.

Although it’s a concept lacking in the English language it’s a useful one to describe a real phenomenon nonetheless. The closest English has to this word is “rat race”. It’s also one flaw in the notion that hard work and sacrifices are for the good of the nation as a whole.

But if everyone in the nation is too busy making sacrifices to enjoy their life, are their sacrifices really for the greater good, or actually for the benefit of a small number of idle elites?

You May Want to Learn More :
“Did You “照骗 (Zhào piàn)” Cheat? Everyone Does it Now!”
“This Pop Phrase That Is So Unfair: “双标 (shuāng biāo)””
How to Score a Job Teaching English in China”

HSK 1 quiz

Got questions? Take a free 1-to-1 lesson with one of our professional teachers by signing up below:

search no result

By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Your email address and phone number

Write a comment

Your Name: 
Your Email:  Your email address will not be published.
Verification Code:  Verification Code Unclear? Try another one
By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Email This Article
Recipients' email addresses:
(separate recipients with comma)
Your name:
Your e-mail address (optional):
Your message (optional):
Verification Code:
By clicking Send, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Get 11 FREE Mandarin E-books
Sign up for a free trial now!
Get more information about our Chinese lessons through live chat
Get a FREE live 1-to-1 lesson and FREE e-books. Complete the form below:

search no result

By clicking Submit, you agree to our
Terms of Service
and Privacy Policy.
Your email address and phone number