Back Down to the Countryside: Contextualizing the Fanxiangqingnian ‘Return Youth’ Phenomenon, A Case Study of Heyang Village

From the novel repurposing of the anthropological term ‘involution’ (neijuan) to the phenomenon of ‘996.ICU,’ anxieties over expectations and pressures to ‘succeed’ are dimming the once seductive allure of China’s first and second tier cities. In contrast, small towns and villages are appearing in both official discourse and popular media as new lands of ‘opportunity’ for China’s youth, especially those seeking the proverbial ‘good life.’ Within this context, this paper discusses the emergence of a novel social category known as the fanxiangqingnian, ‘return youth,’ in Xi Jinping era China. Using empirical evidence collected from fieldwork conducted in the village of Heyang, in Zhejiang province, the experiences of several post-90’s youth with various backgrounds of urban socialization are discussed through the lens of fanxiangqingnian.