Chinese media is full of stories about corrupt officials who have been arrested and detained, but specific details about how and why graft became so rampant throughout the country are scant.
Now, a new reality show from state broadcaster China Central Television hopes to address this issue. The series consists of eight episodes, the first of which aired Monday, and goes to great lengths to dish the dirt on the fall of some of China’s mightiest men.
“Always on the Road,” is co-produced by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s much-feared discipline watchdog. The CCDI has risen to prominence since President Xi Jinping launched his now-famous anti-corruption campaign at the end of 2012. The campaign to purge China of crooked officials and bureaucrats has been widespread: In 2015 alone, 336,000 party officials were reprimanded or punished. Now, some of these anti-graft cases will appear on TV screens across the country.
In the show’s first episode, Bai Enpei, the former party secretary for southwest China’s Yunnan province, recounted how he was lured into corruption: “Businessmen were living in fancy houses and driving luxury cars — some even had private jets. I remember realizing I wanted a life like theirs, and that was when my thinking changed.”
Bai and his wife, Zhang Huiqing, a manager at state-owned Yunnan Power Grid, started accepting bribes from developers, a practice that continued for at least a decade.
It was hardly surprising, then, when anti-graft investigators came knocking on the couple’s door and uncovered troves of ill-gotten loot. It took CCDI staff more than 10 days to inventory all of the items found in Bai’s home, which included jade accessories, expensive teas, and mahogany furniture. According to one of the guests on the show, Zhang had once asked for a jade bracelet as a bribe. Its value? A cool 15 million yuan ($2.2 million).
Another official featured in the first episode of “Always on the Road” was Zhou Benshun, who helped businessmen and developers secure land-use rights from the government. In return, these people “invested” in his son’s business. According to the program, Zhao had once “borrowed” more than 10 million yuan from an investor, with no intention of ever repaying it.
The rewards for such shameless behavior were many: Zhou lived in an 800-square-meter house; he had a secretary, a driver, two chefs, and two maids — some of whom received lavish salaries, according to testimonies of guests on the program.
(Header image: Party cadres watch an episode of ‘Always on the Road’ at a home in Chongqing, Oct. 17, 2016. Chen Renchuan/IC)