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I have spoken with some successful people in the agricultural sector and read many encouraging stories about rural startups online.

Tellingly, not one of them has ever claimed that it is easy to make it in the countryside. That fact doesn’t even consider those who gave up and didn’t get the chance to share their experiences.


Still face many challenges

Despite measures taken by the authorities to tap into the potential for employment and innovation in rural areas, young people returning to their hometowns to start businesses still face many challenges, including those related to funding, technology and training.

Moreover, the traditional view that staying in one’s home village offers little scope for growth dissuades many young people from working in the modern agricultural sector.

That helps to explain Wang Ying’s hesitation when she graduated from law school. She told me that her years of diligent study, aimed at guaranteeing her departure from her home village, could have led to a good life in the city.

  • Those thoughts were dominant when her father tried to persuade her to return home.

  • Wang said that when she had the idea of starting a company in the rural area, she never imagined it would result in numerous struggles.

  • Moreover, even when she worked as a career consultant at a university, she didn’t encourage all her students to return to the countryside and embrace rural entrepreneurship “because they had to know all about the difficulties before they made the decision”.

I watched some rural entrepreneurs on Douyin, a popular short-video platform. Their businesses were not as large as Wang’s company, but they included the owner of a tea field, a man who ran his family farm as a tourism venue and a sheep farmer.

They all talked about various hardships they had encountered.

Some faced misunderstandings from family and fellow villagers, and most had to deal with less-than-helpful business rules and infrastructure.

Even four years after their initial investment, some rural entrepreneurs had not made a profit. However, none of them regretted their decision to return to the countryside.

Wang, now Party chief of her home village, thanked her father for persuading her to return, because it gave her the chance to start an e-commerce company and help her fellow villagers earn more.

In her video on Douyin, “Tea field owner” explained why she had quit her job in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, and returned to the family farm.

“When I was a child, my (migrant worker) parents left me behind when they went to work outside. I hope my knowledge and skills will help more adults find jobs in the village so they can stay with their children,” she said.

“Sheep raiser” said the difficulties he had faced proved that “this piece of land really needs us”.

The man who operates his family farm as a tourist attraction believes that some day he will make a profit because the beautiful and tranquil scenery suits current tourist market demands. “It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

So, while not everyone will persist after starting a business in the countryside, all those who refuse to give up, whether profitable or not, harbor a desire to build better hometowns.

As “Muzi’s county life” said in his Douyin video, “The reason we undertake higher education is to help our hometowns eradicate poverty, rather than to simply get away from them.”

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