BEIJING: Chinese tea stall chain Sung is channelling millennial despondency around the dim prospects in both marriage and careers, with suitably bleak product titles – “achieved-absolutely-nothing black tea” – as the brand channels “Sang” culture.

According to a report from Reuters, Sung tea stalls’ use of an ironically defeatist attitude, Sang – named after the Chinese character associated with funerals – reflects the growing visibility on both the internet and TV of millennial sadness.

But equally, it revolves around some very real issues buffeting millennials in 21st century China. Thanks to rising prices in major cities, owning a house - still crucial to one’s marriage prospects - is increasingly difficult.

As is finding a decent job, now harder as China’s previously stratospheric growth has slowed, and wages drop; in 2017 the average graduate salary has dropped 16% year-on-year.

However, such pessimism is not to the taste of the ruling Communist Party.

Official organ of the party, People’s Daily, scorned sand culture as “mental opium,” propagating an “extreme, pessimistic and hopeless attitude”. Further into the editorial, the paper urged readers to “refuse to drink ‘Sung tea’, choose to walk the right path, and live the fighting spirit of our era.”

The trend arises at a bad time to be sad in China. As the Communist Party congress – held every five years – fast approaches, the government is issuing calls for positivity and clamping down on negativity. In late June, Bojack Horseman, popular among the sang generation, was withdrawn from the iQiyi streaming site.

Writer Zhao Zengliang told Reuters that Sang was more than a simple fad. “‘Sang’ is a quiet protest against society’s relentless push for achieving the traditional notion of success”, she said. “It is about admitting that you just can’t make it”.

Data sourced from Reuters