A television series depicting China’s ongoing harsh campaign to crack down on corruption is fast gaining its word-of-mouth popularity among not only Chinese households but also some foreigners residing in the country.
The drama, called In the Name of the People, offers viewers, particularly foreigners, an opportunity to better understand China’s politics and culture and also the nation’s iron-fist resolve in the fight against corruption among the country’s political and business elites.
The series tells the story of a prosecutor named Hou Liangping investigating and fighting against corrupt officials in a complicated corruption-related crimes network, including those at the ministerial level, to safeguard social fairness and justice.
The drama is an effort rarely seen in recent memory that carries the anti-corruption topic, the discussion of which is prevalent but mostly remains private in Chinese society, onto mainstream television.
"I was quite impressed by the jaw-dropping scene where a deluge of cash hidden on a giant wall was found in a low-level official’s house. It is a bribe he’s accepted which is worth 230 million yuan (about 33 million U.S. dollars)," said Eric Ivarsen from Norway, a master’s student majoring in the public management and social development at the University of Chinese Academy of Science.
"My subject has a very high requirement of knowledge about Chinese politics and culture. After watching the drama, I better understand China’s political terms and taboos, for example, seats order according to official rankings, languages being used in a meeting, which is quite different from my country," Ivarsen added.
Ivarsen’s classmate and compatriot Mads Nielsen found some true-to-life human elements in the various shades between black and white.
"Some people are good in some situations but bad in others. It’s difficult to say who is good and who is bad. It makes the characters very real," Nielsen said after watching six episodes.
Television critics, however, tended to provide a more professional analysis by using what’s known as a three-E parameter, which holds that television programs bear the responsibility to "enlighten, entertain and educate" the audience.
"If a television production does one, it is good; if two, it is fairly successful. In the case of this drama, it does all three," said Harvey Dzodin, TV critic and former vice president of American Broadcasting Company.
"With a very good script and music, the drama captures people’s feelings in an emotional way. I think what the series does is something few television dramas achieve," Dzodin added.