A Show About Poverty Alleviation Is Getting Historically High Reviews

Critics and casual viewers alike appreciate how “Minning Town” doesn’t shy away from some of the common missteps associated with government relocation projects.

A Chinese television drama about a real-life poverty alleviation project from the 1990s has proved an unlikely hit with viewers, garnering the highest rating of any live-action show in the last five years on China’s equivalent to IMDb.

Concluding with its 23rd episode Saturday, “Shanhai Qing” has been lauded for its vivid storytelling, fast pacing, savvy acting, and high production quality. The usually picky users of ratings site Douban have scored the show — also known by the English title “Minning Town” — a superlative 9.4 out of 10 based on over 100,000 reviews. Critics are on board, too, having described the show as “a new standard for Chinese dramas” and “an instant classic.”

Minning Town” follows the trials and tribulations of villagers in the northwestern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region who were relocated from the countryside in the 1990s as part of a local poverty alleviation initiative.

At the time, an entire village in Xihaigu — a region in the south of Ningxia that the United Nations in 1972 called “one of the least suitable areas for human habitation in the world” — was moved several hundred kilometers north to a new location on the edge of the Gobi Desert, not far from Ningxia’s provincial capital of Yinchuan. Afterward, experts from Fujian, a relatively wealthier coastal province, visited and helped the villagers establish businesses as part of a cross-provincial assistance scheme in 1996.

The new settlement was dubbed “Minning,” a portmanteau comprising two Chinese characters associated with Fujian and Ningxia, respectively.

In the show, Ma Defu is a fresh college graduate and low-level party cadre who is dispatched to his home village in Xihaigu to help the authorities there persuade the locals to agree to the planned move. Despite living in abject poverty, however, the villagers are loath to leave their ancestral home — and it doesn’t help that the land of milk and honey they are promised is still a virgin tract of land plagued by mosquitos and sandstorms. Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone