RARELY has a Chinese city boss had more fans than Li Dakang, the earnest, driven Communist Party chief of Jingzhou. “I want development, I want speed and I want GDP,” he recently intoned. “But I want it to be modern GDP, GDP that comes without pollution.” Over the past month tens of millions have tuned in to watch him strive to fulfil these promises. On their smartphones, they share images of the heavy-eyed man with an easy smile, quoting his words and cheering him on. His policies have even been immortalised in a musical tribute, “The GDP Song”.
Li Dakang is not real, nor is Jingzhou. They exist only on “In the Name of the People”, a wildly popular 55-part television series about China’s battle against graft. Since its first broadcast in March, the show has attracted attention for its depiction of official corruption, unusual in the context of Chinese censorship. Less noted is the insight it has offered into a range of China’s economic problems—not just…Continue reading