Date
25 June 2017
Xiang Junbo is under investigation for bribery. China's top insurance regulator has long been rumored to be involved in shenanigans in the industry. Photo: Reuters
Xiang Junbo is under investigation for bribery. China's top insurance regulator has long been rumored to be involved in shenanigans in the industry. Photo: Reuters

How a TV drama is fueling Chinese anger against graft

Xiang Junbo, China’s top insurance regulator, has been placed under investigation for “severe violations of discipline,” which usually means taking bribes.

By coincidence, In the Name of the People, a TV drama series featuring high-level government corruption as the central theme has been hugely popular these days.

This sort of drama is usually not allowed to air during prime time. But In the Name of the People is different.

The show was produced by the Film and TV Center under the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the national agency responsible for investigating corruption.

Viewers who saw the first few episodes commented that the series doesn’t appear to be entirely fictional, with similarities between the characters and high-ranking officials taken down in recent years.

It’s reported that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s anti-corruption unit, has directly offered details of many plots.

For example, one corrupt official has hidden more than 10 million yuan in cash inside the wall of his room, which reminded viewers of Wei Pengyuan, a former senior energy official who was found to have more than 200 million yuan. Wei was found guilty of taking bribes and given a suspended death penalty in October.

The huge popularity of the show reflects the severity of corruption in China and how much the average Chinese wants the bad guys in the government to be weeded out.

Xiang has served as chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission since 2011. Under his reign, the insurance sector has been a source of trouble for the financial market.

In particular, a group of private insurance firms has been notoriously raising funds through relatively short-term universal insurance products for speculation in the stock market.

Some even use such funds to engineer highly leveraged takeover bids in listed firms such as Vanke Co. (02202.HK), Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Zhuhai (000651.CN).

As a result, Liu Shiyu, the country’s top securities regulator, denounced such insurers as “barbarians” and “robbers” in December last year. It’s a rare move that Liu crossed the line into the insurance sector, embarrassing Xiang.

Following Xiang’s fall from grace, there could be negative repercussions on some of the high-profile private insurance groups that have been overly aggressive and from time to time operating in gray areas.

Generally speaking, leading insurance companies such as China Life Insurance, People’s Insurance Co Group of China, New China Life Insurance should be little affected.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 10

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RT/RA

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe