‘House Of Cards’ Is Huge In China! For A Pretty Terrible Reason! Probably!

02.20.14 10 Comments

Netflix famously does not release viewing statistics for its original programs, so there’s not really any way to gauge exactly how big of a hit House of Cards is here in the U.S. of A. We kind of just have to take Netflix’s word for it. (“It’s a huge hit!” “How do we know?” “Because we just said it’s a huge hit!” “Okay!”) In China, however, the streaming rights to the series are owned by a service called Sohu, a Netflix-equivalent that that does release the viewing statistics. And guess what: It’s a huge hit, pulling in 24.5 million views for its first season, and ranking number one on the list of American shows since Season 2 was released last week.

And it’s not just workaday Chinese humps who love the show, either. It turns out the series has some pretty powerful fans.

China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency acknowledged last week that “a large number of our country’s senior leaders in government and enterprises and opinion leaders also highly recommend this show.”

Hmm. That’s strange. Why would high-ranking members of the Chinese government recommend a series about American politics? I mean, sure, it is fun to watch Kevin Spacey go all bull-in-a-China-shop (pun not necessarily intended, but let’s roll with it anyway) every time he strides into frame, but there has to be another reason, right?

But another reason the show may be a success here, some China experts in the United States fear, is because its unflattering portrayal of U.S. politics affirms Chinese government propaganda about American hypocrisy and bullying.


“For Chinese, America is the big bugaboo in the world, so it makes sense that there’s interest in the intrigue and the power behind Washington,” said Michael Auslin, Asia expert at the American Enterprise Institute. “That said, it’s probably not a great thing if this is the only side they’re seeing. . . . To truly understand U.S. politics, I would prefer they watch C-SPAN, but that’s probably not realistic.”

So there’s two things going on here, and they’re both mostly true:

1) It’s probably not fair to assume that — even with years of state propaganda being shoveled at them — the average Chinese viewer doesn’t recognize that a fictional depiction of a power-mad sociopath who has personally committed (SPOILERZZZZ) multiple murders doesn’t line-up perfectly with what’s really going on in American politics. It’s definitely not flattering, and if that’s what you want to see then it certainly confirms your worst thoughts about Washington, but I’m sure a fair chunk of viewers are sophisticated enough to tell the difference.

2) I really hope “All Americans love to eat ribs for breakfast” catches on as a stereotype.

Source: Washington Post

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