KoolKill

Touching Fish

Touching Fish

Jane Li on why Chinese youngsters, subjected to “996 hours” (9am to 9pm for six days a week), are embracing a philosophy of slacking off or “touching fish”, a Chinese phrase synonymous with lazing around at work (Quartz)

There is some disagreement about whether “touching fish” should actually be translated as “trying to catch fish by hand in the water” but I’ve run with “touching fish” since that’s what’s used in the article.

posted by adrianhon (34 comments total)

15 users marked this as a favorite

In the 80s-90s Americans worried about Asia’s productivity, but now they’re even beating the US at being unproductive! We need to urgently demand more federal funding to support our own work bullshit. Boss key research has languished since the 90s.

posted by Wretch729 at 7:22 AM on February 4 [16 favorites]

“Touching fish” is far more poetic than “fucking the dog.”

posted by fatbird at 7:29 AM on February 4 [15 favorites]

Interestingly, in Singapore/Malaysia, and I suspect other places where there are many Hokkien-speaking Southern Chinese, the usual term is jiak zua, or “eating snake”.

posted by destrius at 7:55 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]

As an Original Gen X Slacker I approve of this youth initiative, but all joking aside forcing anyone to work 9am to 9pm for six days a week outside of an emergency (and I mean a “lives are at risk” emergency, not a “if you don’t our firm might not meet its quarterly targets” situation) is exploitative bullshit.

posted by The Card Cheat at 8:43 AM on February 4 [55 favorites]

Mayor West: Is this really a clickbait article about generational laziness? I’m in the generation described and for the most part it seems sympathetic to their conditions.

posted by adrianhon at 8:52 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]

I hope this is a more popular, accessible and sustainable revolution than Hong Kong. China needs reform and if rejecting the systematic destruction, rape, and murder of Uighurs can’t be the spark, maybe shitty work hours will.

posted by BrotherCaine at 9:39 AM on February 4

It’s so sad that millions of people perished in the service of proletarian revolution only for the ruling Communist Party to create a modern system that brutally exploits the very workers in whose name it governs. I hate everything about this.

posted by wuwei at 9:54 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]

Look at free speech for instance. I can’t imagine not being able to criticize my government without repercussion because it’s a fundamental value I’ve grown up with. I accept the costs that come along with being able to speak out. People in China might not value it that highly because they look to us, look at how that value enumerates social discord which has caused the widespread death and destruction during this pandemic, and come to the conclusion of “it’s just not worth it”.

posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:15 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]

I think the average Chinese citizen being “aware of this” referred to the oppression of Uighurs, not their contentment with their economic system.

posted by hototogisu at 10:19 AM on February 4 [15 favorites]

People are aware of shitty things going on in every political system and will happily let that minority suffer if it means economic hegemony and some vague definition of order is retained. The United States for instance is basically built on genocide, no reparations, still oppressing most of its minorities who haven’t been integrated into the colloquial definition of “white”.

posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:47 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]

Jack Ma was the billionaire who espoused “996”.


Jack Ma is under house arrest/semi disappeared after the Ant Group IPO threatened stability.


Don’t be like Jack.


Touch fish instead.

posted by scruss at 12:41 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]

I love the immense variety of slang terms for bludging at work, it’s a real human universal. Frederick Taylor (who created ‘scientific management’) wrote that it was called ‘soldiering’, from soldiers’ habits of doing absolutely nothing unless they were specifically ordered to do it, one of my favourites, but ‘touching fish’ is now up there too.

posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:24 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,”


Blaise Pascal

posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:02 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]

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