Trends and Phrases in China: 下海 (xià hǎi) jumping into the sea of business

There is a new trend in the Chinese society. People give up their secure jobs even in government positions to start their own business. It is called 下海 (xià hǎi) jump into the sea which now generally refers to quit the job to start an own business . (下海,最初指一种到大海里去的动作,如今一般指放弃原来的工作去经营商业和创业。)

Attention: 下海 (xià hǎi) was formerly the “black talk” of the bottom society, which means that women are engaged in squatting or in the sex industry. After the reform and opening up, it was extended by the media to abandon the fixed work and engage in business and entrepreneurship. (改革开放之初,市场经济开始繁荣,一个新的自由空间正在出现。)
But at that time, business was in the eyes of Chinese people a “smashed iron rice bowl” (砸烂铁饭碗), means there is no choice to go back. And sea is also a metaphor for the complicated and unpredictable “commercial sea”. (一些人,主要是政府机关工作人员、国企员工等放弃他们的“铁饭碗”,转而到这一新的空间里创业经商、谋求发展。)

As business were producing high life quality and rich celebrities the phrase became a different meaning. The lives of ordinary people are about to undergo earth-shaking changes. (普通老百姓的生活即将发生翻天覆地的变化。) In the era of materialistic desires, how should people face the precious family, friendship and love that once existed? (物欲横流的时代,人们该如何面对曾经弥足珍贵的亲情、友情与爱情?)

Norberto Moreau
Entrepreneur, Management Consultant and CEO of Allied Management
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