- Back-to-work Hollywood actors bring SAG Awards to Netflix
- Foden strikes as title chasing Man City beat Bournemouth
- Argentine provinces threaten oil supply cuts in dispute with Milei
- CGTN: CMG 2024 Lantern Festival Gala captivates audience with blend of tradition and technology
- Zelensky presses for arms, vows triumph over Russia on war anniversary
- Van der Merwe hat-trick as Scotland beat England in Six Nations
- France 'still in hunt' for Six Nations title despite slow start
- Haley lashes out at Trump over 'disgusting' Black voter comments
- Ireland can make Grand Slam history, says Gatland
- Oil-rich Argentine provinces threaten to cut supply in dispute with Milei
- Paolini battles back to 'incredible' Dubai triumph
- Khachanov ends Mensik's dream Qatar run to clinch sixth title
- Stuttgart miss chance to cut gap to Bayern with Cologne stalemate
- Maguire slams 'naive' Man Utd after shock Fulham defeat
- Macron opens agricultural show to whistles from protesters
- Barcelona thump Getafe to go second
- Pro-Ukraine rallies across Europe on war anniversary
- Valencia falls silent to recall housing block fire victims
- Fulham puncture Man Utd's feel-good factor, Villa hit Forest for four
- Famine fears deepen in besieged Gaza
- Stuttgart miss chance to cut gap to Bayern with Cologne draw
- Navalny's body given to his mother, his team says
- Evacuations, retreat in east Ukraine on war anniversary
- Ireland post sloppy win over Wales to remain on course for Six Nations Grand Slam
- Ollivon's France 'still in the hunt' for Six Nations title despite slow start
- Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary
- Slovenia's Tratnik steals in for Het Nieuwsblad win
- Hundreds protest in Senegal demanding new election date
- Biden hails US lunar landing as space milestone
- Strikes kill dozens in Gaza as Israel, Hamas seek ceasefire deal
- Valencia falls silent to recall housing block inferno victims
- 'Excellent' Bashir takes four wickets to put England on top
- Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends
- Dead horses, scraps, leaves: Gaza's hungry get desperate
- UK's Sunak vows Ukraine 'will prevail' as new artillery funding unveiled
- England's Bashir takes four wickets to hurt India in 4th Test
- Zelensky vows triumph over Russia on second war anniversary
- Twinning outfits not a fashion faux pas in Milan
- Strikes on Gaza kill scores as Paris hosts new truce talks
- South Africa's ANC kicks off election season
- Thompson downs Zverev to reach Los Cabos final against Ruud
- UK pledges £245 million to boost Ukraine artillery reserves
- Lupita Nyong'o to crown winners at 74th Berlin film festival
- Ukraine vows triumph over Russian 'darkness' on war anniversary
- Savory & Partners: Antigua & Barbuda's citizenship program shows promising growth as CEO reveals big changes in 2024
- Bucks grab big win over West-leading T'Wolves, tempers flare in New Orleans
- Scores killed overnight in Gaza, Israeli negotiators in Paris
- France roll as Dupont makes sevens debut in Vancouver
- Actress Godreche calls for reckoning on sexual violence in French film industry
- Mouthguard technology strikes Super Rugby teething problems
Freedom and dignity: Millennial Chinese leave China for Thailand
Hitting tennis balls across a tree-lined court in Thailand's mountainous north, Connie Chen's weekly private training session is a luxury the Chinese national could barely afford when she lived in Shanghai.
China implemented some of the world's toughest Covid restrictions during the pandemic, putting hundreds of millions of people under prolonged lockdowns. In the aftermath, younger citizens -- exhausted by gruelling and unrewarding jobs -- are taking flight to escape abroad.
With a relatively easy process for one-year study visas, a slower pace of living and cheap living costs, Thailand's second-largest city Chiang Mai has become a popular destination.
"During the pandemic, the desire for freedom became stronger," Chen, a 26-year-old former bank worker, told AFP.
In China's financial capital Shanghai -- hit by some of the strictest pandemic lockdowns -- Chen had a stable, well-paid job, but was unhappy with the career path that lay ahead of her.
After the pandemic, Chen knew something had to change.
"Even if I kept doing this job for the rest of my life, it would just be like this," she said.
"But life is so short that I want to try something different."
Chen is emblematic of many of her generation: unlike their parents who benefited from China's then-booming economy, younger Chinese are burdened by a weak economy.
Prospects for promotion are few and competition is ferocious, leading many to burn out.
Chen researched foreign language programmes, choosing Thailand where she and her husband, Gordon Lin, moved in May under a one-year education visa.
And now they are determined to live abroad long-term.
"I feel there are a lot of opportunities outside and I feel hope," she said.
The Covid lockdowns in Shanghai led to rare street protests that quickly escalated into demonstrations across other major cities in China, prompting a crackdown by the nation's communist rulers.
The people interviewed for this story were reluctant to discuss politics, but all insisted their moves abroad were motivated by wanting a different lifestyle.
- A decent, dignified life -
The surging desire to leave China can be seen in patterns on WeChat, the Chinese messaging app.
Searches for "emigration" have spiked, hitting 510 million in one day in October, according to Chinese-language media, while in late January "immigrating Thailand" was searched more than 300,000 times in a single day.
Thailand is seen as easier than Europe or North America, with the kingdom offering several types of long-term visas, including a one-year language course -- costing roughly $700 to $1,800.
"I think there's a sudden increase of desire for leaving China," said social anthropologist Xiang Biao, from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.
Thailand has come to be regarded by many Chinese as a stepping stone country, he said, ideal to experiment with living abroad.
But compared to migration in the 1990s and 2000s, when many kept connections with China for business, Xiang said there was a new trend of people wanting to totally uproot themselves.
He added while this group were educated they were not necessarily part of the elite or wealthy.
"They are cosmopolitan, open-minded and they cherish a basic sense of freedom -- not necessarily political freedom, but they want to live a life that they feel is decent and is dignified," he said.
And unlike previous generations, they are not seeking to make their fortune abroad.
"It is really thinking of the question of what kind of life they want, what kind of adults they want to become," he said.
- 'Just do it first' -
Back at the tennis court in Chiang Mai, Chen's husband Lin cheers her on.
The former e-commerce employee had planned to work hard, save and then retire early. But he felt increasingly suffocated by the identikit mindset surrounding him.
"It's all about going to a good university, finding a good job, being a civil servant," the 32-year-old said.
Chen and Lin have only been in Thailand for a few months, living off savings while they consider their next move.
But for Yin Wenhui it is time to go.
The 31-year-old arrived during the pandemic, stranded after China shut its borders, but after a few months he didn't want to return to face relentless pressure from family and peers to devote himself utterly to work.
"I feel more free here. The pace was too fast in China, I didn't have the freedom to do things I wanted to," he told AFP.
Now instead of obsessing about work he runs a Chiang Mai hostel with friends, goes to the gym daily and has learned to cook. Fulfilling a childhood dream, he was also learning to play the guitar -- something his parents frowned upon.
"Here I have more time to think, think about what kind of life I want," he said.
But now the honeymoon is over for him -- he has grown frustrated by the slow pace of life and is ready for the next stage.
"I want to go to a developed country, as it will be better than China or Chiang Mai on culture, work and also salary," he said.