A police drama based on real organized crime cases is helping educate the public about the value of the rule of law and their rights, experts said.
A special campaign launched by the central government on fighting organized crime and legal departments' rectification measures are used as much of the background for The Knockout.
The drama tells the story of a police officer's fight against organized crime over 20 years, and shows the rise and demise of underworld figures and corrupt officials.
It has received a rating of 9.1 out of 10 on Douban, one of China's most-visited review platforms, and has become one of the most discussed topics on social media since mid-January. The drama began screening on China Central Television and streaming platform iQiyi on Jan 14, with a total of 39 episodes to be aired.
Many viewers have applauded the show's plotlines and the actors' performances, and also praised the efforts of police officers in battling organized crime.
In January 2018, the central authorities launched a three-year nationwide special campaign to fight organized crime.
According to the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, from 2018 to 2020, authorities busted 3,644 mafia-like gangs and 11,675 other criminal gangs, detained 237,000 suspects and investigated 89,700 cases of "protective umbrellas", a reference to officials who hide gangsters' crimes.
The crackdown on organized crime, which involved multiple departments including public security and discipline inspection, as well as banks, continued after the campaign officially ended.
In May 2022, the Anti-organized Crime Law took effect, giving greater legal clout to fight such crimes.
From July 2020 to December 2021, commissions for political and legal affairs at all levels also conducted educational rectification for officials in public security organs and procuratorates as well as lawyers and other related groups to strengthen internal supervision and root out those who undermine trust in the departments.
Wei Pengju, director of the Institute of Cultural Economics at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, said The Knockout resonated with viewers on an emotional level. Reactions to the program also reflected how the public perceived the work and achievements of the nation in combating organized crime and building a sound legal environment.
It educated viewers to have a positive attitude on seeking help through legal avenues, rather than violence or bullying, when encountering unfairness, Wei said. The program also deterred potential gangsters from pursuing criminal activities.
"Stories of fighting organized crime are often attractive to audiences, and this reflects people's expectations and trust in advancing rule of law. The hatred of gangsters and the pursuit of justice among viewers is the same, which is the simplest understanding of a law-based society," said Zhi Feina, a professor at the Film and Television Research Institute of the Chinese National Academy of Arts.
Zhi said that the positive sentiment created by the authorities' crackdown on organized crime is an important reason for the drama's success. This has also promoted the idea of the rule of law, she added.