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For Young Chinese, the Coolest Thing to Do in 2020 Is Retire

Stuck in coronavirus-induced isolation through spring, Thea Tang drew up a new set of life goals. The list was short and extremely specific: Acquire 2 million yuan ($280,000), plus two unmortgaged houses, and retire by the age of 35.

The 27-year-old, who lives in the southern city of Guangzhou, had been thinking about giving up work for years. Since graduating in 2014, she’s spent most of her time working in China’s cutthroat real estate industry — a career that brings her a decent salary, but also relentless pressure and crazy hours.

“I worked ‘996,’ or even ‘007,’” Tang tells Sixth Tone, referring to the intense work schedules favored by many Chinese companies — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, or on call 24/7. “I knew I didn’t want this.”

But the pandemic has hardened Tang’s resolve, giving her a new sense of urgency and clarity. After her employer — a Malaysian real estate developer — began laying off staff in April, she decided it was time to take action.

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