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A countryside master class: The Day I Ran China gives the world an inside look into the economic boom of rural China

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A countryside master class: The Day I Ran China gives the world an inside look into the economic boom of rural China

November 04
00:24 2020

The Day I Ran China: Discovery uses reality entertainment to tell the story of China’s rural renaissance to the world

“Look at those mountains and all this greenery. It’s incredible. Actually, you know what’s really surprising for me is only 30 or 40 years ago the UN described this as one of the least hospitable places for human beings. Now because of poverty alleviation and rural revitalization, this place is now fantastic. Look at it. It’s so green.” This was the reaction of British contestant Lucien after he completed his first challenge in the cabbage fields of Ningxia’s Xiji County. This was only the second episode on season 2 of The Day I Ran China, and the show has a lot more in store for these young competitors.


For the second season of this original Discovery Media Group and Mango TV International reality show, the cast of apprentices has expanded from 7 young Asian up-and-comers to 10 international entrepreneurs with a diverse set of credits to their names. The focus of the so-called “apprenticeships” has also gotten a makeover, shifting from season 1’s cutting-edge technology to surprising innovations in the remote Chinese countryside. Through a series of “fish out of water” challenges, the entrepreneurs are pushed hard to show they have what it takes to survive in China’s rural villages. As for Discovery, by broadcasting The Day I Ran China in over 40 countries on the Discovery Global TV Network and translating the English-Chinese bilingual show into regional languages, Discovery Media Group has found a way to bring the Chinese countryside to a global audience, offering viewers a more personable and compassionate perspective on the nation which is often headlining international news.

A lesson in modern economy building, deep in the Chinese countryside

Xiji County is located in the hinterland of the Loess Plateau and is the last county in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to bring its people above the poverty line. Against all odds, Xiji citizens transformed their environment in recent years to develop a model cold vegetable industry. Their vegetables are sold all over the nation, creating a boom in employment and the median income. Land that was once barren has now become fertile and prosperous fields. And Xiji is not an isolated case. Such stories of poverty alleviation are a dime a dozen in China, which is exactly what makes The Day I Ran China’s format so brilliant. It takes these stories that seem so distant from audience’s lives and moulds them into a fun and light-hearted reality show, communicating real experiences and authentic data through the eyes of relatable international entrepreneurs.


From Yunnan’s Azheke village, to Ningxia’s Xiji County, to Hunan’s Yizhang County, The Day I Ran China travels to some of the farthest corners of the country to seek out economic models that have been profitable for rural inhabitants. By allowing the apprentices to get hands on, including maintaining rice terraces, harvesting cold vegetables, renovating Qing Dynasty homes, and grinding rice cake flour with a 200 year old stone grinder, we are able to experience the backbreaking daily lives of China’s villagers through their eyes. This snapshot of how they live, makes the economic transformations they have gone through all the more impressive.  

Refreshing its international image, China tells the story of technological alleviation

In the show, we see the foreign apprentices consistently taken aback by the widespread use of modern technology in some surprising corners of the Chinese countryside.

Despite the remote locations, cutting-edge apps and online platforms have penetrated many aspects of rural life. A prime example is seen in episode one of the series, where traditional clothes-wearing villagers in Yunnan’s Azheke village use short-form video platform, Douyin (China’s version of TikTok), to promote their breath-taking scenery and attract tourists, and even the local barbeque stall accepts mobile payment. In episode three, the apprentices visit Hunan’s Yizhang County where villagers young and old use virtual supermarket platform Mango Farm Aid to sell agricultural products via live broadcast. These are all examples of technology and Internet platforms accelerating the pace of poverty alleviation, which is exactly what China has been focusing on over the past decade. From a policy perspective, The Day I Ran China outlines a map for utilizing high-tech developments to reach areas that would otherwise be left behind.  

In much of China, technological innovation and widespread Internet use have become commonplace. In today’s Chinese villages, the goal is not just how to alleviate basic poverty, but how to grow the population’s wealth while still preserving traditional local culture. This is another layer that The Day I Ran China eloquently integrates. Such as in Azheke village, where with the help of technology and innovation they have developed a tourism plan that runs the village like a tourism company, sharing all of the tourist-generated revenue with the villagers, no matter what their age or place in the society. This has allowed the village’s very traditional Hani minority people to maintain their original way of life without the pressure to send their youth off to make money.

These stories of revitalization that have been taking place across China are not just interesting for global viewers, domestic audiences within the country are increasingly curious about how the nation has managed to lessen the wealth gap in such a short period of time. Through The Day I Ran China, Discovery and Mango TV manage to tell the Chinese story using a broader international perspective, allowing people both home and abroad to learn and start a discourse surrounding the vital topic of poverty alleviation.

Reaching screens overseas, redrawing the image of the Middle Kingdom

The international contestants are just one of the protagonists of The Day I Ran China. In addition to their stories, the show also introduces audiences to a colourful cast of locals. From the knowledgeable Industry Masters that act as judges each week to the hardworking local guides that share their skills with gusto, these locals are the true stars of each episode, making their mark by showing both the contestants and viewers what life in the Chinese countryside is really like.

The aspect of The Day I Ran China that is the most heart-warming however, may be how they approach the stories of their real-life characters with respect and humility. While the cast of foreign apprentices are a group of accomplished business people in their own right, they are introduced to these rural heroes as apprentices, and are encouraged to learn from and admire their local guides. The show’s portrayal of Chinese villagers demonstrates a diligent and optimistic spirit, a positive example of how innovation and openheartedly adopting new technology can change everyone’s lives for the better.


Audiences within China can follow The Day I Ran China via streaming platform Mango TV, while international audiences can find the show on the Discovery Global TV Network and the Mango TV International App. 

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