Zhou Meisen: From a coal miner to writer of China’s hit TV show
In the midst of China’s Cultural Revolution, a 14-year-old coal miner bought a yellowing, torn copy of Honore de Balzac’s biography from a book collector on the side of the street.
He became engrossed in the text, and dreamt from then on that he would devote his life to literature - to become, as Balzac was, a “secretary transcribing history.”
Today Zhou Meisen is a celebrated 61-year-old novelist and screenwriter who has captivated Chinese audiences with ‘In the Name of the People,’ the first television drama showing high-level government corruption to air in the country in more than a decade.
The drama, which completed its 55-episode run in late April, has been a pop culture sensation, garnering nearly three billion views across China’s biggest online video platforms.
It was even mandatory viewing at some government offices, local media reported, as some Party cadres were required to submit 1,500-word reviews describing their experience watching the program.
Based on Zhou’s novel of the same name, the show was produced with 120 million yuan ($17.4 million) in funds from China’s top investigative and prosecutorial agency, and aimed to portray the inner workings of President Xi Jinping’s wide-reaching anti-graft campaign.
The crackdown, launched after Xi took office in 2012, has been touted for targeting both high-level “tigers” and low-ranking “flies,” though critics have called the initiative a political purge.
The endemic corruption and lavish wealth among members of China’s ruling Communist Party has long been a taboo subject. Zhou avoided interviews with foreign press during the drama’s run because he feared any small “misunderstanding” could cause the show to be taken off air.