The play sheds light on Chinese politics and officialdom in the ongoing campaign against corruption. It follows a tense struggle among fictional provincial officials: the secretary of the political and legal affairs committee, the anti-corruption director of the procuratorate, and the chief of the public security department.
The novel "In the Name of People" by Zhou Meisen was published in January and drew an enormous amount of public attention as it discussed corruption at a senior level.
"We don't focus on the fact of corruption and the plot of investigation and punishment," says director Wang Xiaoying. "We highlight the complicated and subtle emotional activities and personality conflicts between criminals and corruption fighters, exposing the internal virtue and vice of characters gradually."
Hunan Satellite TV is to broadcast its own drama of "In the Name of People", also authored by Zhou Meisen. Co-produced by the Film and TV Center of the Supreme People's Procuratorate of China, it is set to air at the end of March.
Costing 120 million yuan (about 17.4 million U.S. dollars) and comprising 55 episodes, it will be the first Chinese screen production to focus on the war against graft since regulatory authorities ordered in 2004 that dramas involving corruption and violent crime should not be broadcast in prime time on satellite channels.
"The TV play took almost two years to prepare and shoot, and more than 40 well-known actors appeared in it," says director Li Lu. "The audience can discern the resolution of the Party and nation in fighting corruption. The investment came from five private film and TV companies, and satellite TV stations above provincial level purchased the play for 220 million yuan (about 31.8 million U.S. dollars), which shows the confidence of the market."
As many as 11 other TV plays set amid the anti-corruption campaign were submitted to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television before 2016, but they are still waiting to be broadcast.
The new generation of state leaders fighting corruption and striving to build clean government is driving this new theme in China's arts.
At the Third Plenary Session of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in 2014, Chinese leaders urged all CPC members to be fully aware of the protracted, complex and arduous nature of the fight against corruption, and to continue the fight against corruption until the end with the resolution and courage depicted in ancient Chinese idioms where a man has to scrape the toxins off the bones and cut off his own snake-bitten wrist to save his own life.
"This shows the unprecedented confidence and resolution of Chinese leaders in eliminating corruption," says Zhou Meisen. "As a writer, I can't remain silent on events concerning the survival of our nation."
Zhou says the authorities used to take months to examine such works in the past - and usually only approved them after substantial changes. However, the TV play was approved 10 days after its submission to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television.
Artists pay more attention to exploring the human aspects of the fight against corruption than do news reports, says Zhou.
"There are various reasons for the corruption of an official, but the ultimate reason is the unchecked development of human greed, with authority not being supervised effectively," he says. "Absolute power leads to absolute corruption."
At the end of the drama, the anti-corruption director received a new task, starting new anti-corruption struggles at the newly-established supervisory committee of a province.
In December 2016, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress passed a resolution to carry out pilot reforms of national supervisory system in Beijing, Shanxi Province, and Zhejiang Province, integrating the functions of relevant organs in the regions involving the investigation of bribery and corruption, dereliction of duty, and the prevention of duty-related crimes into the supervisory committee. This is an important step of the state toward "combating corruption by system".