Recently, the Chinese online series “the Bad Kids” has been well received by millions of Chinese audiences, and it is reported that it will be broadcast overseas soon. If you want to know the Chinese style 20 years ago, this series had a good starting point.

The name of the Bad Kids” is adapted from Zijinchen’s mystery novel “the Bad Kids“. The Chinese drama is called “the Hidden Corner“. It is produced by Han Sanping and directed by Xin Shuang. Qin Hao and Wang Jingchun take the lead actors. The cast list also includes Rong Zishan, Shi Pengyuan, Wang Shengdi, Zhang Songwen, Liu Lin, Lu Fangsheng, Li Meng, and Huang Miyi. It is a family suspense type network-streaming series, which is quite rare in China.

The show mainly tells the story of a man in a small coastal town who plans a murder to save his wife after his wife asks for a divorce, but fails to do so, so he continues to carry out a series of murders. However, the three children inadvertently filmed the first murder while playing in the scenic spot, thus being involved in a series of murders. It was broadcast on iQiyi on June 16, 2020, the English subtitle version has also been broadcast on iQiyi International Station.

The online show got a score of 9 out of 10 on the local review platform Douban.

Unlike the United States, China lacks a relatively complete film and television production system, and if most films and TV dramas want to reach a “qualified” level, they need to make extra efforts by producers or directors to find the most suitable partners. and pay more attention to foreign cooperation. The director of the animated film Ne Zha, which has made a lot of money at the box office in China, has complained that although outsourced special effects teams have the ability to achieve their goals, it is still a very difficult task to urge them to give full play to this ability in China.

Therefore, in China, there may be major problems with any details of a TV series, such as the logical scars of the plot, the extreme lack of dedication of actors, the cultural errors of costumes and props, and so on. Obviously, there are no big problems in these aspects in order to create an immersive TV series, which is not very common in China, and “the Bad Kids” is one of them.

We don’t do spoilers. Today, let’s talk about the Chinese background that you may not know when you watch the Bad Kids.

Aerial picture of the city scene, from the screenshot
Aerial picture of the city scene, via screenshot

The style and features of a small town

If you are familiar with the big Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, you will feel uncomfortable with the fictional “Ningzhou” in the play. This place is too small, it seems that there are only a few enterprises and a few people in every industry. Once you go to the scenic spot, you will meet Zhu’s mother, as soon as you buy aquatic products, you will meet Zhu’s father, and the police,you will find only have Chen and Ye. In fact, this is the original style of most small cities in China.

Compared with super-large cities like Beijing, most small cities have a much smaller area and a much smaller population, and their limited land and population can only support limited enterprises. In the play, Ye, the captain of criminal police, runs before and after for all kinds of cases, which is not a very exaggerated phenomenon in a small city.

But there is one thing you may find strange: almost everyone in the play lives in an apartment building. In small cities in North America, people from better-off families can often live in a single-family, while apartments are more common in particularly busy big cities. In China, apartments are the first choice for most people, whether in big or small cities. The difference is that housing prices in big cities are more expensive, and many people who work in Beijing all their lives may not be able to afford a property in the inner ring of Beijing. In small cities, it is relatively easy to buy a house.

The Children’s Palace is a bit like another school.

Children’s Palace and Mathematical Olympiad

In most Chinese cities, there is a building called the Children’s Palace near the city center, which provides space for extracurricular study and cultural activities for most of the children in the city. In small cities, the role of Children’s Palaces is more significant, because these cities lack other business organizations to offer similar courses.

Mr. Zhang is a math teacher who teaches Mathematical Olympiad in the Children's Palace.
Mr. Zhang is a math teacher who teaches Mathematical Olympiad in the Children’s Palace.

In the film, Zhu studies Olympic math at the Children’s Palace during the summer vacation. In the 1990s in China, Olympic mathematics was the choice of many children who did well in their studies, and they thought that learning these contents would help them improve their math performance in class. A small number of students will take part in the Mathematical Olympiad and win the favor of excellent junior high school, high school or university with their competition results. In the 1990s and early this century, if a pupil scored more than 60 (out of 100) in Olympic mathematics, he was usually qualified to enter a key junior high school in the city.

Unlike schools, the Children’s Palace generally adopts semi-closed or non-closed management, so conditions that are difficult to see in schools may occur. For example, in the play, Yan and Yue of the three children are not students in the Children’s Palace or even in the city, but they can still enter and leave the Children’s Palace freely. And this also brings a lot of difficulties to the detection of accidental death in the play.

Swimming Pool

Because most Chinese live in apartments, only a few rich people are likely to own homes with private swimming pools, and most of China’s natural waters do not encourage tourists to swim–in fact, if you swim in more famous scenic spots, it is likely to be stopped by the management inspectors around you.

Zhu's father and Zhu were chatting in the swimming pool. The scene was filmed at Chikan Swimming Pool in Zhanjiang City.
Zhu’s father and Zhu were chatting in the swimming pool. The scene was filmed at Chikan Swimming Pool in Zhanjiang City.

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As a result, wild swimming in places where there is a lack of management has become one of the few choices for swimmers. But the lack of management often means that it is more remote, and it also means that there is a lack of public transport. This may not be a problem in the United States, where there are far more cars per capita than in China, where many families do not have their own cars. In addition, there is a shortage of lifeguards in these places, and in the play, Mr. Zhang’s wife, Xu, was found after drowning and did not get timely help. Therefore, wild swimming is always a choice for a few people.

Public swimming pools have become the first choice for more families, especially when they swim with their children. It may be difficult to see so many people huddled in a small swimming pool outside China, but given China’s population and the extreme shortage of private swimming pools in China, you can understand.

The attitude of the police in handling cases

In the play, although most of the characters have ulterior motives, several policemen are quite serious and responsible. The police, represented by Chen and Ye, represent the consistent style of the Chinese police.

You may have heard of law and order in China from many places, and you know that the incidence of vicious cases in China is very low, and China is one of the safer countries in the world. If you only think about life safety, China can be said to be one of the safest countries for ordinary people in the world. But this kind of security comes at a price.

Compared with China’s huge population, the number of police in China is pitifully small. This leads to an obvious result: the lack of police force. As a result, the Chinese government requires the police to concentrate on solving vicious cases, such as murders, which will invest a lot of time and manpower at all costs, and may spend decades tracking down the murderers-in theory, they will do so for hundreds of years, but it is not that long since the founding of New China.

But at the same time, Chinese police are more numb to small cases. In China, the police often record and mediate some minor disputes or economic losses of thousands of yuan, rather than tracking down homicide cases, so many thieves and fraudsters are not arrested until they have committed many crimes.

In addition, the political influence of the Chinese police is also reflected in other aspects. For example, if you are not a Chinese citizen, then you can often feel the extreme enthusiasm of the police in China, even if you have only suffered a small loss of a few hundred yuan, the police will spend a lot of energy to help you pursue the case. This reflects the Chinese government’s idea of giving preferential treatment to foreign guests, but it often makes ordinary Chinese complain.

In addition, in some places, the police system is greatly affected by local demand. In some cities with large enterprises, objectively speaking, it is easy for the police to favor these enterprises when handling cases, giving them a convenience. For example, if the business boss has some minor violations, the police will often turn a blind eye to or simply deal with them. In essence, this is also related to the needs of local governments to develop the economy.


In the play, Mr. Zhang borrows money from the underworld and gets less cash than the money on the IOU. The reason for this is that Chinese law does not protect usury, and underground lending, which obviously exceeds the interest rate protected by law, requires some extra mobility.

In today’s China, the legal protection of the annual interest rate is 36%. If you borrow money at an annual interest rate less than 36%, the court will not help creditors recover interest. If the person who has repaid the interest claims the illegal income from the creditor, the court will also ask the creditor to repay the money. In the era of “the Bad Kids”, there was still a lack of judicial interpretation of interest rate protection in China, but even so, usury was out of the law at that time.

Obviously, the fact that the legal prohibition does not mean that usury has disappeared. Many small businesses need short-term cash flow, but their businesses are in poor condition, making it difficult to get loans from formal banks, so they have no choice but to resort to these illegal loans. Obviously, in a situation like Mr. Zhang in the series, it is impossible to get money from the bank, so he can only take risks.

However, how does underground lending ensure that it gets the right interest and does not exceed the legal limit? It’s very simple. All you have to do is write a fake contract. For example, a common practice of usury is “9 in, 15 out”. When the borrower borrows 100000 yuan, he will only get 90, 000 yuan in cash, but he will have to sign a loan contract with a book value of 150000 yuan. As a result, when the borrower repaid 150000 yuan, he paid more than 60, 000 yuan of interest. on the face of the contract, the annual interest rate was about the same as the standard prescribed by law, but in fact, the principal of the loan was only 90, 000 yuan instead of 150000 yuan.

The Chinese government is well aware of the existence of underground lending and has systematically controlled the market. However, as China’s own commercial banking system is not so perfect, underground lending is necessary in many cases, which has always become the shadow behind China’s banking system.

Huan zhu ge ge

The TV in The Bad Kids is always playing Huan Zhu Ge Ge, which is the common memory of the Chinese people for the summer vacation.

In the play, Officer Ye and his daughter watch “Huan zhu ge ge” together. The English translation of the TV series is “Princess Pearl“, which tells the story of a real princess returning to the royal palace with the help of a commoner who is treated as a princess when she is living among the people.

This TV play can be said to be a household name in China in the 1990s. Although from today’s point of view, the plot of the play is old-fashioned, the emotional development is blunt, the lines are not very particular, and there are traces of shoddy production in photography, soundtrack and many other aspects, but at that time, this TV series can already be regarded as one of the best Chinese TV dramas. What’s more, because the theme is related to love, the TV series is also quite popular, resulting in almost every Chinese who has experienced the 1990s to see it.

The TV series has become popular with many stars who are still active today, such as Zhao Wei, Lin Xinru, Fan Bingbing, Su Youpeng, Zhou Jie, Zhang Tielin and so on. Today, it is very difficult for us to find another Chinese TV series, which can discover so many big-name movie and television stars at one time, which shows the influence of “Huan zhu ge ge” at that time.


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One response to “From the Bad Kids, you will find the unfamiliar China”

  1. […] In terms of online drama, in addition to the Mist Theater, iQIYI will launch the Sweet Theater, the appointment Theater, and the Lunar New year Theater, showing more genres of film and television dramas. IQIYI’s Mist Theater recently broadcast the widely acclaimed online drama “the Bad Kids”. […]

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