Chinese tech companies are letting thousands of employees go in a wave of layoffs, 裁员潮 cáiyuán cháo.
Giant companies like JD.com and others call it optimising (优化 yōu huà) their operations, as they deal with economic and regulatory pressures.
Employees at these firms are anxious about losing their jobs. While others are more anxious about not being laid off (Sina, Chinese):
A sense of unease is spreading through the Internet industry. Currently, employees that haven’t been laid off are taking on even more work and pressure. Being even more competitive (卷 juǎn), and even more exhausted is normal for them. So much so that some people now envy those who have lost their jobs.
Many laid off are recent graduates wanting to find work in the more stable state sector. Interviews with two career coaches reveal that’s just as competitive, which is why finding the right career coach can make all the difference (36Kr):
Many professionals who have long left their careers at tech companies or in the state sector have sensed there is an opportunity. They are starting their own career coaching services on all the main platforms, taking advantage of the axing of so many jobs. They are selling their skills to help address the pending crisis of hitting 35 years old, and the ongoing crisis in China’s tech stocks.
So this week, we look at how the wave of layoffs is being discussed in China, how people are coping with it, who are the winners and who are the losers.
The favourite five: the most interesting words and phrases I’ve found this week
Consuming the conversation: going deep into how it’s being discussed
Recommendations: links for further reading, a 600-character Chinese text to read, and new feature - a bit of classical Chinese to practice (this week it’s a poem)
1. The Favourite Five
上岸 shàng'àn - land ashore, get to the destination, be safe normally from a difficult or dangerous situation
丰富的应试经验加上针对性辅导，能帮助他们更快“上岸”，这种情况也让进国企的竞争变得更加激烈 - With lots of interview experience, and targeted coaching, it can help them find a job quicker. This means that getting a job in an SOE is even more competitive.
Note: this is also internet slang used to describe clearing your debts; it can also mean to pass a test or an interview.
码农 mǎ nóng - coding peasants, coder
在于码农的工作属于体力活，上了岁数的员工不论体力上，和思维上，都比不上年轻的员工 - Coding is a hard job. By the time you get to a certain age, your physical stamina and mental agility cannot compare to younger coders.
人心惶惶 rénxīn huánghuáng - anxious
尤其哪些35岁还没有晋升到管理层的从业者，更是人心惶惶，生怕自己被K掉，其实现在年龄限制是所有行业的潜规则 - Especially those 35 year-old employees who have not yet made it to a management position, they are even more anxious. They are scared they will be sacked. The age ceiling is an unwritten rule in all industries.
Related: 忧心忡忡 yōuxīn chōngchōng - worried
Note: 被K掉 is Internet slang for getting sacked. The ‘k’ is from the English, ‘kill’. This is different to K字里向上的那一竖, in which K is a K-shaped recovery.
拼命三娘 pīn mìng sān niáng - workaholic woman
在这之前，我一度为了不被裁掉，被同事称为“拼命三娘” - Before, I would do anything, working so hard not to get laid-off. My colleagues called me a ‘workaholic woman’.
Background: an Internet phrase originally used in China’s entertainment sector to describe an extremely hard working female actresses. It was first used to describe 杨幂 Yáng Mì - known as one of China’s hardest working celebs. The phrase comes from the idiom 拼命三郎 pīnmìng sānláng - ‘daredevil third brother’, a character in the Water Margin. This idiom used to describe fearless or hardworking men.
巧妇难为无米之炊 qiǎo fù nánwéi wú mǐ zhī chuī - a skilled housewife cannot cook without rice; you can’t do the job if you don’t have the tools
如果学员自身在大学期间没有优化自身经历的意识，始终困在“做题家”思维中，再完善的服务也是巧妇难为无米之炊 - If my mentees did not have the right mindset of broadening their experience while they were at university, and are stuck in the thinking of just being good at taking tests, no matter how good my services are, I can't help them.
Recommended: see SupChina’s phrase of the week for more on the background of this phrase.
Related: 小镇做题家 xiǎo zhèn zuò tí jiā - small town test taker (originally discussed in the 29 May newsletter last year)
2. Consuming the conversation
镰刀 lián dāo - sickle, a threat
裁员的镰刀已经架在大厂应届生新人的脖子上，行业大佬纷纷表示日子不好过 - The threat of being laid off is like a knife being held to the throats of graduate employees; many industry players have said things are going to be tough.
出活 chū huó - work output
年轻人在求职的时候需要尽量表现自己“出活”的能力 - Young people when applying for new jobs need to try their best to show they can deliver.
躺赚 tǎng zhuàn - making money lying down
崩溃的离职员工还是少数，毕竟拿着一笔赔偿金，就属于“躺赚” - Only a small number of those being laid off have not been able to handle it. After all, it’s an easy win for them as they have the compensation.
Related: 躺枪 tǎng qiāng - getting shot while lying down, being collateral damage
卖命 mài mìng - selling your life, selling yourself to your company
现在我也想明白了，与其在这卖命不如换个行业试试 - Now I have come to realise that it is best to try another industry rather than staying here and selling myself.
被cue bèi cue - asked a question, expected to have a response to
阿里2021Q4电话会议上就被问到“直播电商对未来的影响”；而拼多多2021Q3电话会议上，“直播方面的竞争情况”也同样被cue - Alibaba in its 2021 Q1 conference call was asked: ‘what is the future impact of livestream e-commerce?’ In its Q3 call PDD was also expected to have an answer to the question of competition in live-streaming.
Note: Internet slang from the English ‘cue’. It means to give a response to something or be expected to have an answer.
接幸运 jiē xìngyùn - get lucky
被裁员工宣布拿到了N+1，而底下的评论则全在“接幸运”，希望自己被“优化” - It was announced that staff being laid off will receive a severance package equivalent the salary for number of years they have been employed plus one year. So employees are hoping they will get lucky and ‘be optimised’.
炸开锅 zhà kāiguō - explode the pot, explode, or go viral on social media
消息一出，整个互联网都炸开了锅 - As soon as the news was released the whole internet industry exploded.
捡漏王 jiǎnlòu wáng - king of the leaks; a master of working loopholes
通过用自己的长处应对同行的短处，京东成了“捡漏王” - Using its strengths against the weaknesses of its competitors, JD.com has become a master of working the system.
披星戴月 pīxīng dàiyuè - working from morning to night
前不久正好是寒假业务期，我们留下的员工每天都在披星戴月地工作 - Recently, during the winter holidays, the employees that stayed back to work were working from morning to night.
雷打不动 léidǎ bùdòng - unstoppable, absolute or imperative
每批裁员后我都有个雷打不动的任务就是稳定组内同事 - With every wave of lay-offs, I had a critical task which was to stabilise the team.
烟消云散 yānxiāo yúnsàn - disappear into thin air
公司的业绩也连年不佳，曾经的美好都烟消云散 - Company performance is getting worse year-on-year. It’s past success has totally gone.
断臂求生 duàn bì qiúshēng - cutting your arm off to survive
有网友甚至评价，“真正的断臂求生，看谁的现金熬过今年 - Some netizens commented, with such drastic cuts, we will have to see which companies have the cashflow to get through the next year.
节衣缩食 jiéyī suōshí - making cuts
大厂拉响了“警报”，比起往年的“财大气粗”，大厂也开始节衣缩食 - The big tech firms have issued a warning. They are no longer spending lavishly; they have started making cuts.
铁打的营盘，流水的兵 tiědǎ de yíngpán, liúshuǐ de bīng - soldiers come and go but the barracks remain the same
铁打的公司，流水的员工。也许现在国内只有国企或者公务员等工作相对稳定些，其他岗位多多少少都有些不稳定因素 - A company stays the same but employees come and go. Perhaps only jobs in state owned companies and also civil servants are relatively stable. All other other jobs are full of uncertainty.
勒紧裤腰带过日子 lēi jǐn kù yāodài guòrìzi tighten your belts and prepare for hard times
市场规模跑不起来，利润又被不断挤压时，大厂们只能勒紧裤腰带过日子 - When the market cannot scale, and profits are constantly under pressure, tech companies have no choice but to tighten their belts.
一劳永逸之举 yī láo yǒng yì zhī jǔ - put things right once and for all
这些招数，从长期来看，都明显承压竞争或局势，并非一劳永逸之举 - These tactics, from a long-term perspective, are obviously dependent on market competition and the current situation. But it won’t fix the problem permanently.
- Member Updates
- Recommended links
As well as the two articles referenced above, here’s some more reading material on mass layoffs at tech companies:
- Reading practice
This week’s reading practice is an excerpt from my favourite article this week about career coaches. This section is around 600 characters.
And there’s a bonus poem by Dù Mù at the end too!
That’s it for this week.
ps - if you enjoyed this newsletter please do share with your networks and on your social channels!