Wu Zongwei works in a government intelligence department and knows how to get ahead. His boss has told him and his colleagues to watch television.
Not any TV show, of course, but Lurk (Qianfu), which is set in 1945, the year China won the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and fell into a four-year civil war between the Communists and Kuomintang. The show only hit the small screen recently but is already a smash hit, especially among younger viewers.
Wu became a fan after watching it by chance and soon found his boss and colleagues were also tuning in. His boss suggested that anyone who had not seen the show tune in right away.
"My boss told us to learn from the main character's devotion to faith," says Wu. "Yu Zecheng, the protagonist, survives in a dangerous environment largely thanks to his strong faith, which provokes his wisdom and courage."
Saleswoman Yu Hong, 29, is also a Lurk devotee. Her boss has asked all the staff to watch and learn from the spy thriller.
"He told us to observe our rivals, clients and environment, and to note details like a spy," Yu says. "He says the business world is like a battlefield."
Yu is a streetwise Communist agent planted in a Kuomintang secret spy organization. He uses his wits to exploit his colleagues' conflicts, quickly becomes his boss's favorite and gets much useful inside information.
The 30-episode series has been the talk of the town since first screening in late March. Its premiere had an audience rating of 8.01 percent in Beijing TV, the highest first-day rating of any TV series broadcast by the network.
Most interest concerns the show's office politics.
Netizens summarized the 10 dos and don'ts that they think have helped the main character to be a winner in the office.
The 10 must-dos include being low-key, loyal to your boss and neutral when your colleagues clash.
Among the 10 don'ts were telling office workers not to show off their talent and complaining about their colleagues behind their back.
A netizen wrote: "We should work and live like Yu Zecheng. We young people are impulsive and do not pay enough attention to human relations, which is a big weakness."
Mainstream media such as Xinhua.net and Sina.com launched regular reports on discussions the show inspires among white-collar workers.
He Dong, a TV host for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV and culture critic, wrote in his blog: "Those who hope to come out on top in their jobs should watch the show again and again. It shows in great detail strategies for how to behave, such as when to accept things going against you, wait for the right time to act and when to fight back.
"The show is popular because it resonates with real-life situations. Every role can be related to one's own boss or colleagues."
Chen Ning, a senior consultant at Zhaopin.com, a job website, thinks that the "guidelines" offered by netizens and in the media are useful because success in a company is largely attributed to high social skills.
Scriptwriter Jiang Wei has been taken aback by the huge stir the show has caused among young office workers and admits he hadn't been alluding to today's society when he wrote the script.
"Young people know little about the history I was writing about, so they tend to relate the story to an environment they are familiar with - that is quite understandable," Jiang told the Shanghai Youth Daily. "For people to create office strategies from the script was something I never expected."
Wu Jing, associate professor in Peking University's Communications department, attributes the show's success to the media's preoccupation with young people's opinions.
"The media likes to find potentially popular issues on the Internet involving young people, especially because young white-collar workers express their opinions there," says Wu. "Through the media, their ideas grow into a bigger topic, which in return creates more intense discussions."
Wu thinks that office politics is definitely not the only thing the show's viewers focus on.
"Some other TV-watching groups, such as old people or blue-collars may be more interested in the funny husband-wife relations between Yu and his fake wife, a covert agent, too. But their opinion has less chances to be captured by media or magnified to be an issue."
She also admits that the fact that China has been a country paying great attention to human relations adds to the show's popularity.
"The connections, or guanxi among people has long been a favored topic among Chinese," she says. "Remove the historical background, and the show is about how a person makes use of various human relations to achieve his goal. This kind of story, if logically and finely narrated, of course will create a stir among Chinese viewers."