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Can Chinese workers learn to take deep breaths?

By Shu Meng (Global Times)

10:49, October 30, 2012

Strolling through big cities in China at night, you will find many lights left on in office buildings, a sign that many people are working overtime, a fact which has largely contributed to record levels of stress in the country.

According to a China Youth Daily report on Monday, recent research shows that Chinese people are the most stressed in the world. 75 percent of Chinese workers in mainland surveyed said they had become increasingly stressed in the past year, which is much higher than the global average of 48 percent. It is estimated in the research that around 600,000 Chinese die every year from work-related stress conditions.

The lack of a sound social security network has also contributed to societal woes. Although basics such as food and clothing are no longer problems for the vast majority, property and jobs now top the list of worries and are major contributors to the pressure felt by most Chinese workers.

However, a degree of uncertainty about the future is to be expected in any country undergoing a transitional time on its journey to modernization. Japan, for example, was once known around the world for its long working hours and the pressures faced in school or at work by its people. However, what has made it different in China is that the modernization process that took hundreds of years in the West is happening much faster in China. Chinese people are facing a rapid build-up of pressure which ought to have been experienced over a long period of development.

Anxiety and uncertainty can also be reflected in other aspects, as they can blight not only individuals, but the country as a whole. In domestic affairs, every time a major event happens, the country will wait to see which problems will arise and have to be dealt with. On international affairs, we are very sensitive to other countries' comments, without the confidence a power like China ought to have in itself.

China has been opening up for 30 years and has become the second largest economy in the world. The level of China's national development is clear, but while this brings many uncertainties, there are also more reasons to feel confident over the future.

It's a sad reality that people are gripped by anxiety and losing the ability to relax.

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