Public lives, secret lives

Updated 2017-03-31 11:00:37 China Daily
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In the Name of People has been adapted into a 55-episode TV series of the same title, featuring actors such as Lu Yi.

Stories of how public officials get rich through corruption have kept one novelist writing furiously

Zhou Meisen, a sharp dresser and an unconventional artist, once had many influential contacts in positions of power. Some of them are still in power. Some are in prison.

“They are in prison because there are no restrictions on the use of power. That has ruined a lot of officials,” says the 62-year-old Zhou.

He is regarded as one of the three major writers of anti-corruption novels in China, the other two being Zhang Ping and Lu Tianming.

His newly published work In the Name of People and the 55-episode TV series of the same name present audiences with a picture of Chinese officialdom in the ongoing anti-corruption campaign.

“The novel not only unfolds the complexity, difficulty and versatility of the battle against corruption. Rather, Zhou makes a thorough inquiry of what makes a politician's soul twisted and strained,” say the literary critic He Shaojun.

In the book, Zhou creates a crook, humble and low-profile. A man who eats mostly noodles every day.

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In the Name of People has been adapted into a 55-episode TV series of the same title, featuring actors such as Wu Gang.

“Who could image the amount of bribes he takes,” Zhou says. “He takes a few hundred million yuan in bribes, and yet he dares not to spend a penny. Why? That's what I want to explore.

”Certainly, the characters all are drawn from real life,“ says Zhou.

His crooks are a combination of real deputy state leaders including Zhou Yongkang, who was a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee when arrested in 2014 for his severe disciplinary violations, and Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, who was expelled from the CPC in 2014 for graft.

At a cost of some 120 million yuan ( million), the TV series began airing on Tuesday. The program shows signs of the lifting of the ban on programs that deal with corruption and violent crimes. Over the past 10 years, the broadcast of such programs was prohibited during prime time, but this one sailed through the approval process and was widely praised.

In In the Name of the People, Zhou shows the political ecology of official circles. He notes that corrupt officials have their own speech codes. They speak differently in front of and behind the public. They use the term ”for the people“ repeatedly, and then actually harm people ”in the name of people“.

Gao Yuliang, a corrupt official in the series, is the secretary of the politics and law committee in a province where he has been in office for many years. The prototype of the character was an official Zhou is quite familiar with. When creating the character, he portrayed him just like one of his brothers: ”Before he took bribes, we were intimate friends in private, drinking and talking about life together.“

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Zhou Meisen's latest novel In the Name of People probes into what corrupts a politician's soul.

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