Chinese Netizens Love the New Season of ‘House of Cards’ — Even Though it Makes Their Country Look TerriblePosted: February 18, 2014
David Wertime and Han Chen report: “Everyone in China who works on this level pays who they need to pay.” Mild spoiler alert: These are the words of the fictitious Xander Feng, an influential Chinese billionaire on the Netflix series House of Cards, a show that follows the machinations of U.S. Representative (and later Vice President) Frank Underwood to agglomerate power and crush whoever stands in his way. The phrase is also now viral on the Chinese Internet, which has proven surprisingly hospitable to the show’s second season, which debuted on Feb. 14. Despite having its arguably Sinophobic moments — in addition to Feng-as-villain, the show depicts a Stateside Chinese businessman hiring both male and female sex workers, and a U.S. casino laundering Chinese money to fund a Congressional SuperPAC — the show has Chinese social media users applauding what they believe is a largely accurate depiction of Chinese palace politics.
The attraction of House of Cards’ second season — which has already received over 9 million views in the first weekend compared to over 24 million for the first season, released March 2013 in China — appears two-fold. First and foremost, the show engages Communist Party corruption, elite infighting, and the often-outsized influence of the moneyed class with a directness that few domestic shows dare hazard. The colorul Feng, for example, alludes to scheming with members of the Chinese government to force a more liberal financial policy, not to mention bribing high officials outright. The result is a portrait of Chinese elite skullduggery convincing enough that one user wondered aloud in jest whether the show’s screenwriters had planted an undercover agent in party ranks.
None of this means the show’s writers have spared U.S. policymakers in the new season. Chinese web users continue to praise House of Cards for providing what they believe is a glimpse into wrongdoing at the highest levels of U.S. government. One user lauded the show’s screenwriters, who “really understand China-U.S. relations” and have also managed to “reveal how the U.S. government works.” However overwrought that depiction may be, it’s convincing enough that Chinese media has reported that
Wang Qishan, chief of the party’s internal discipline organization and member of the Politburo Standing Committee, has “repeatedly brought up” the first season series in talks with colleagues…
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