Chinese Internet Terms【内卷 nèi juǎn】内部过度激烈竞争 Excessive Internal Competition 学写中文网络流行词汇

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Involution, a popular Internet term, originally refers to the phenomenon that after a cultural model reaches a certain final form, it has no way to stabilize or transform into a new form, but can only become more complex internally. After being circulated on the Internet, many college students use it to refer to irrational internal competition or “voluntary” competition. Now it refers to the phenomenon that peers compete to make more efforts to compete for limited resources, resulting in a decrease in the individual “benefit-effort ratio”. It can be regarded as “inflation” of effort.




一篇叫作《绩点为王:中国顶尖高校年轻人的囚徒困境》的爆款网文起到了推波助澜的作用。文章作者大谈特谈清华、北大两所学校的内卷现状,充满忧虑下此论断:“这些中国最聪明的年轻人正面临普遍的困境:在极度竞争中,成功压倒成长,同伴彼此PK,精疲力竭。”真不是现在的孩子矫情,也不怪他们竞争意识发育太早,“培训班鄙视链”“学区房排位赛”之类的教育军备竞赛万众参与,这可真是值得警惕的“内卷” 。


According to the Baidu Index data analysis platform on August 25, 2021, the overall average daily search index value of “involution” is 16999, the mobile average daily search index value is 14886, and the highest peak is 88726 (May 31, 2021).

Popular background

In the second half of 2020, several pictures were screened: some people read books on bicycles, some people use computers while riding, and some people have piles of books on their beds… The students who “use computers while riding” are called “volume kings” and are on the hot search. “Involution” has become popular, and college students use it to refer to irrational internal competition. These pictures were first circulated among the top students of Tsinghua University and Peking University. Later, popular words such as “Tsinghua Volume King” and “riding a bike while watching a computer” became popular searches, and related emoticons also appeared in many college students’ social software.

A popular online article called “GPA is King: The Prisoner’s Dilemma of Young People in China’s Top Universities” played a role in fueling the trend. The author of the article talked about the current situation of involution in Tsinghua University and Peking University, and made this statement with worry: “These smartest young people in China are facing a common dilemma: in extreme competition, success overwhelms growth, peers PK each other, and exhaustion.” It’s not that today’s children are hypocritical, and it’s not their fault that their competitive consciousness develops too early. The educational arms race such as “training class contempt chain” and “school district housing ranking competition” is participated by thousands of people. This is really a “involution” that deserves vigilance.

Later, the word “involution” spread to groups such as college students and office workers, and gradually evolved into a popular Internet term. It was used to complain about the current situation of excessive competitive pressure in society, and also spawned various communication products such as short essays, comics, or short videos centered around the word “involution”.

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