Why ‘nobody’s visiting relatives in 20 years’ is trending in China, on the heels of the country’s biggest holiday

Lion dance performers entertain locals on a cold and windy day at a local park during Chinese Lunar New Year and Spring Festival activities on January 24, 2023 in Beijing, China.

Chinese social-media users are worried that families will stop gathering during the Lunar New Year.
The hashtag “#Nobody’s visiting relatives in 20 years” has received 340 million views since Tuesday.
Their forecasts underscore concerns about major demographic shifts racing toward China.

As China celebrates its first Lunar New Year since its dramatic reopening, a new hashtag is gaining steam on social media.

“#Nobody’s visiting relatives in 20 years. Definitely,” wrote one blogger on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. 

“In 20 years, those of the ’80s and ’90s generation will become the household leaders,” says the narrator of a video attached to the post. “Because those of this generation were mostly single children, with no siblings, no next-of-kin, they will no longer want to visit their relatives.”

The hashtag’s popularity surged on Tuesday, receiving 340 million views and sparking 19,000 discussions on Weibo. It mourns a perceived future loss of the most fundamental aspect of China’s biggest holiday: gathering with family.

The tradition of traveling to one’s rural hometown for a grand, multi-generational reunion is still observed on a nationwide scale in China, though it’s been stifled by three years of strict pandemic lockdowns.

This year, however, a reopened China expects people to make around 2.1 billion domestic trips between early January and mid-February, with more than half of these journeys for family reunions.

Families members enjoy a New Year’s Eve dinner, also known as Reunion Dinner, on January 21, 2023 in Huaibei, Anhui Province of China.

That tradition won’t last long, say scores of melancholic Weibo users.

“In another 20 years, most of the old generation will be gone, the young people in the family won’t be familiar with each other,” wrote one blogger. “So they’ll gradually cut off contact and won’t visit for the holiday.”

Their predictions, while speculative, underscore major demographic shifts barreling toward China. Earlier this month, the country posted its first population decline in 60 years, after decades of being seen as a powerhouse in growth.

Marriage and childbirth rates there are plummeting, and China is aging fast — it’s expected to have 400 million people over the age of 60 by 2040.

And with China’s rapid urbanization drive and years under the one-child policy in mind, Weibo users are envisioning how city residents, isolated from their already dwindling extended families, won’t just increase in number, but become the norm in 20 years.

“They all live their own lives, and this type of lively scene of going back to your hometown in the countryside for the New Year will not last for long,” wrote one poster.

Not all users treated the discussion with doom and gloom. One blogger proposed a more optimistic theory. “People who get along well with one another every day will also travel in the New Year, and take the initiative to contact each other and have fun,” they wrote.

“The boundaries between friend and family will get more and more blurred,” they added.

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