Outspoken television series In the Name of the People has been a huge smash hit in China, with experts telling the Global Times that the very existence of the high-profile show about an anti-corruption investigator looking into the affairs of a fictional provincial government shows that the Communist Party of China (CPC) is becoming increasingly confident about its anti-graft fight.
The TV series has been broadcast by Hunan TV, a provincial satellite TV station, since March 28, and five video websites have also hosted it simultaneously.
The show has proved an immediate and massive success. So far, 24 of the 55 episodes are available online. On iqiyi.com, a video website under Chinese web giant Baidu, viewers have tuned in to episodes 1.06 billion times, and it has been viewed online more than 2 billion times in total.
The novel, which was released in January and was penned by the show's lead screenwriter, has also been phenomenally popular on the Chinese book market. “The demand for the novel always exceeds supply. Although the printing plant is working overtime, supply still can't meet demand,” publisher Beijing October told Shenyang Evening News, a local newspaper in Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province.
Why so popular?
The story, set in the fictional province Handong, tells the story of a power struggle among senior officials and entrepreneurs in addition to looking at the anti-graft campaign. The hero of the story is a young prosecutor from the Supreme People's Procuratorate, whose mission is to investigate a complicated case which involves assassination, official corruption and economic disputes.
The series wasn't shown on national broadcaster CCTV, there was no large scale publicity drive beforehand and no young superstars have added any glamour to the cast, but it still beat all its competitors to be the most popular TV series of the last 12 months.
“At least three things make this series raise eyebrows successfully. Firstly the story combined anti-corruption and detective storylines; secondly, Chinese audiences are interested in officials' personal lives and their daily work; thirdly, anti-corruption is always popular since Chinese people totally hate corruption,” Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the Chongqing Municipal CPC Committee, told the Global Times on Monday.
“More importantly, the story is very outspoken. It shows that senior officials can be villains. The story didn't avoid mentioning the power struggles among Chinese officials when talking about the anti-corruption campaign,” an anonymous official from the provincial government of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region who closely follows the series told the Global Times.
That the outspoken show passed TV watchdogs successfully shows that the CPC is getting increasingly confident, as it has dared to share a story based on reality in addition to telling its members what is dangerous, Su said.
The story also covers topics like financial corruption within banks and corrupt officials fleeing to the US. “These are contemporary issues. Currently, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has said that and how long it takes,” Xu Xing, a professor of politics at the Zhou Enlai School of Government of Nankai University, told the Global Times on Monday.
That the story chooses the US as the destination of a fleeing official has a factual basis, because the US is an ideal country for corrupt officials and other criminals to hide in as it doesn't have an extradition treaty with China, Xu said.
However, the story also shows China's flaws, Su said. “The investigation in this story heavily relies on the support of the provincial Party Secretary Sha Ruijin who is the top leader of the province, so the anti-corruption efforts in the story rely on governmental authority rather than systemic anti-corruption mechanisms which are based on a sound legal system, so it also shows that China really needs to build up a sound legal system to restrain corruption more effectively.”
Anti-corruption in reality
At the same time as In the Name of the People is making headlines, the Chinese government is also deepening its real-life campaign against corruption. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has vowed more efforts in promoting clean governance, stressing reinforced supervision over the use of State assets and a harsh crackdown on financial corruption, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Li said in a speech on March 21 that China achieved new and important progress in clean governance and fighting corruption in 2016, but there are still problems which require stronger measures.
On Sunday, China's top anti-graft authority announced that Xiang Junbo, chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, is being investigated for suspected serious violations of the code of conduct of the CPC.
“Violators must be punished to serve as a warning to others and safeguard the normal order of financial sectors,” Li said in his speech. He also called for further efforts to improve government services.