First China televised taped confessions from people zeroed in on by anti-graft investigators under president Xi Jinping’s leadership. Then it made a show about how corruption investigators were themselves corrupt. Now the country’s main organ for investigating and prosecuting graft has just aired the first episode of a 55-part TV drama about the hunt for corrupt officials.
“In the Name of People,” produced by the Film and TV Center under the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of China, premiered on provincial station Hunan Satellite Television yesterday (March. 28). It portrays officials at various levels carrying out anti-corruption actions against high-ranking officials (“tigers”) as well as low-level ones (“flies”). The first episode, which was also available on online streaming platform Aiqiyi, was viewed over 7.5 million times (link in Chinese) on that platform, and, according to one report, some 350 million times (link in Chinese) across all platforms.
The TV drama comes as the country prepares for the 19th Party Congress meeting this fall, at which Xi is expecting to start his second term, and China’s propaganda machines have been emphasizing Xi’s achievements in the run-up to the meeting. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, for example, on March 20 (link in Chinese) listed the drama among its top recommended TV series so as to “welcome the successful opening of the congress meeting.”
Adapted from a novel of the same name, In the Name of the People tells its story through the fictional character of Hou Liangping, who is the Procuratorate’s anti-graft department director in the show, which focuses on the investigation of a string of corrupt officials who are involved in real-estate allotment in Hanguang city of Handong province. Viewers who saw the first episode say the series doesn’t appear to be entirely fictional, noting similarities between the character of one corrupt official and Wei Pengyuan—a former senior energy official who was found to have more than 200 million yuan ($29 million) in cash at home. Wei was found guilty of taking bribes and given a suspended death penalty in October.
The message is to convey that China is “a country of the people, all power belongs to the people,” the narrator says in the show’s previews, which offers tantalizing scenes from the series, including a corrupt official in bed with a blonde, and an official who had money stashed in the fridge getting busted.
The TV series, which cost some 120 million yuan ($17.4 million) to produce, features well-known actors like Lu Yi and Zhang Fengyi. And there’s more to come, since In the Name of People is just the first of five (link in Chinese) anti-graft dramas the Procuratorate’s broadcast department has been producing. The center received instructions in 2015 from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s internal watchdog, to produce more corruption-themed films and dramas, according to the TV center’s deputy director Fan Ziwen.