A YOUNG man drives a harvester through a rice field. Slow down, a farmer chides him.

But he zooms on - then guts stuck in the mud. Welcome to '' Become a Farmer '', the hit reality-TV programme on iQIYI, a Netflix-like Chinese service.

The show transplants ten preppy actors and musicians from the city of countryside in Zhejiang province, where they live together and try their luck at farming.

The 20-something men arrive wheeling giant suitcases, only to find what one calls ''inhuman'' living conditions, an outdoor toilet and endless mud. Audiences are entertained as they work things out and embrace the task at hand.

[ The group has six months to turn a profit from about 10-hectares of farmland.]  But this is also propaganda. Rural revitalisation is a pet project of China's leader, Xi Jinping.

Other government priorities, such as food security, are reflected in the show, too. Episodes remind viewers that China depends on imports.

''Every piece of grain, every grain of rice, is hard to come by,''  says the narrator in the premiere.

Mr Xi and other leaders have long called for Chinese rice bowls to be filled with locally grown crops.

In recent years, millions of Chinese have joined the ''new farmer'' movement, according to the government. 

Many are young graduates who grew tired of the rat race or couldn't find jobs [ the unemployment rate for people aged 16 to 24 in cities is over 20%.]

The state, which supports the newbies, hopes their skills will lead to increased production. On the show, stars gush over cool machines and high-tech methods.

'' I think the farmers are great, '' says one.

The series aims to revive audiences' love for the soiland nature, said a producer earlier this year. But the political messages of '' Become a Farmer '' are about as subtle as its product placement [the men engage in manual labour all day but drink only a zero-calorie beverage].

Young people need to ''abandon arrogance and pampering,'' says Mr. Xi. The government wants them to learn from the peasants - again.

The World Students Society thanks The Economist.


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