China’s ‘House of Cards’ hits the TV screen as Xi Jinping whips his cadres
by Nectar Gan / 05 April, 2017 / SCMP
A Chinese government official is caught in bed with a blonde mistresses, a communist cadre who stuffs his apartment with banknotes, and a “deputy state-level” leader who ferociously resists a disciplinary probe were all aired to a billion television viewers last week in China’s answer to House of Cards.
Like the American political drama starring Kevin Spacey, the Chinese series, In the Name of The People, proved popular among viewers and critics alike, receiving 170 million views by Tuesday for the first 10 episodes on Aiqiyi.com, one of the mainland websites and television channels licensed to broadcast it.
The series is built around fictional internal power plays within the ruling Communist Party as well as the lifestyles of senior officials, although it ultimately hails the anti-corruption campaign of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his key ally, Wang Qishan.
What is extraordinary about the series is that has broken China’s decade-long ban on anti-corruption-themed dramas being aired in prime time slots and it is the first television drama to paint a “deputy state-level” communist leader as a villain.
It doesn’t go as far as House of Cards to feature the president, but it has gone farther than any Chinese political drama to date.
China’s media watchdog decided to curb the genre in 2004 because it exposed excessive details of corruption, even imaginary ones, which Chinese officials thought could undermine public confidence in the ruling party.
The production and broadcasting of In the Name of The People on prime-time screens, therefore, reflects Beijing’s growing confidence that it is able to control the anti-corruption narrative and convince the public that one-party rule can also be clean.
The crackdown on corrupt officials and the incessant calls for party members to be clean has been a hallmark of Xi’s political project in his first five-year term as party general secretary.
Since his ascent to power in late 2012, an estimated 1.2 million officials have been punished for corruption, including the chief of staff of his predecessor Hu Jintao and two vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission who served together.
In a speech in September 2015 in Seattle, Xi said his fight against “tigers and flies” – big and small players – reflected of the public’s will and was not a political purge.
“There’s no power struggle, nor anything similar to House of Cards,” Xi said.
The party’s disciplinary watchdog under Wang, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), has already made two documentaries hailing the campaign.
While the documentaries were eye-popping – featuring toppled provincial officials tearfully confessing in public – the powerful CCDI is trying to grab the attention of the general public, especially young people who prefer to watch TV dramas online rather than dry political documentaries on state television. Read more…