China’s Communist Party has a new role model for its members, and he’s an imperial bureaucrat

What Xi says.
What Xi says.
Image: Reuters/Jason Lee
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In the latest development in its anti-graft campaign under president Xi Jinping’s leadership, which has seen the revival of formerly reviled traditional figures like Confucius, China is now turning to its imperial history.

On Monday (April 24), the agency that steers the party’s anti-corruption campaign put out a trailer of a new TV episode—The Great Grand Councilor Yao Chong—built around the highest-ranking executive official in the imperial Chinese government. Yao served three emperors in China’s Tang Dynasty in the seventh century.

A description on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection that accompanies the trailer says (link in Chinese) that Yao was praised by China’s founding father Mao Zedong as “a great politician.”

“[Yao] was extremely strict with his relatives, he had never allowed families to participate in politics or abuse power,” the agency said, adding that Yao was able to “suppress corruption and extravagance.”

The show is part of a TV series—The Family Rules of Chinese Tradition—that CCDI has been broadcasting since May 22, 2015. The 90 episodes broadcast so far focus on one theme—ruling a country begins with ruling one’s home (link in Chinese)—a Confucian practice that Xi has been advocating.

“No matter how the times or life changes, we must value the family… making thousands of families the fundamental points of the country’s development,” Xi said (link in Chinese) in his New Year’s address in 2015. Later that year, in an annual meeting with the CCDI in October, he said (link in Chinese), “One must be cultivate a good family atmosphere, educate and supervise sons, daughters and staff to take the right path.”

It isn’t the first time that anti-graft programming has been inspired by Xi’s words.

In January, the agency made a show about how corruption investigators were themselves corrupt. The show got its name—To Forge Iron, One Must be Strong—from a phrase that Xi used (link in Chinese) when he vowed to wage war against graft five years ago.

In October, CCDI and the state broadcaster CCTV co-produced an eight-part series called Always on the Road that featured the “confessions” of dozens of corrupt officials. That show’s title came from a phrase Xi said (link in Chinese) in January last year at an annual meeting of the anti-graft agency that emphasized strict rules of party discipline.