Why “Hasn’t Visited Relatives in 20 Years” is trending in China after the country’s biggest public holiday

  • Chinese social media users are concerned that families will stop gathering during the Lunar New Year.
  • The hashtag “#Nobody is visiting relatives in 20 years” has been viewed 340 million times since Tuesday.

As China celebrates its first lunar new year since its dramatic reopening, a new hashtag is gaining momentum on social media.

“#No one has visited relatives for 20 years. Definitely,” wrote one blogger on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

“In 20 years, the 80’s and 90’s generation will be the heads of households,” says the narrator in a video accompanying the post. “Because this generation was mostly only children, without siblings, without relatives, they will no longer want to visit their relatives.”

The hashtag’s popularity skyrocketed 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: reconnecting with family.

The tradition of traveling to the rural hometown for a grand, multi-generational reunion is still being watched nationwide in China, despite being 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, more than half of them for family reunions.

Family members enjoy a New Year’s Eve dinner, also known as a reunion dinner, on January 21, 2023 in Huaibei, Anhui province of China.Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images

That tradition won’t last long, say many melancholy Weibo users.

“In another 20 years most of the older generation will be gone, the young people in the family will no longer know each other,” wrote one blogger. “So they will gradually cut off contact and not visit the holiday.”

Their predictions, while speculative, underscore the large demographic shifts toward China. Earlier this month, the country saw its first population decline in 60 years after decades of being the engine of growth.

Marriage and birth rates there are declining, and China is aging rapidly — 400 million people are expected to be over 60 by 2040.

And looking back at China’s rapid urbanization spurt and the years of the one-child policy, Weibo users imagine how the number of urban dwellers isolated from their already dwindling extended families will not only increase in number, but become the norm in 20 years become.

“They all live their own lives, and that kind of vivid scene of returning to their hometown in the country for New Year’s won’t last long,” one poster wrote.

Not all users treated the discussion with doom and gloom. One blogger suggested a more optimistic theory. “People who get along well with each other every day will continue to travel in the new year and take the initiative to connect and have fun,” they write.

“The lines between friends and family are becoming increasingly blurred,” they added.

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