Chinese Censors Have Kept Their Hands Off ‘House of Cards’

Nathaniel E. Bell/Netflix, via Associated Press Kevin Spacey as the ruthless American politician Francis Underwood with Robin Wright as his wife, Claire. Nathaniel E. Bell/Netflix, via Associated Press

Nathaniel E. Bell/Netflix, via Associated Press Kevin Spacey as the ruthless American politician Francis Underwood with Robin Wright as his wife, Claire. Nathaniel E. Bell/Netflix, via Associated Press

For the NYTimesAmy Qin and Shanshan Wang write:

“Mao is dead. And so is his China.” So says Vice President Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, to Xander Feng, the corrupt Chinese billionaire played by Terry Chen, in the newest season of “House of Cards,” the highly acclaimed Netflix political drama about the machinations of a ruthlessly ambitious American politician and his wife.

“I heard that some government officials are actually quite fond of the show,” said Mr. Zhang. “And that’s why we haven’t met with any trouble.”

It’s not often one hears a line this politically provocative on a Chinese state-regulated entertainment platform. But with more than 15 million total views on Sohu, one of China’s leading Internet portals, the latest episodes (and this line) have been played many times over since the much-anticipated release of the show’s second season last week.

The new season of “House of Cards” focuses on a host of issues that would typically be regarded as sensitive by the Chinese authorities: cyber-espionage, currency manipulation, tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea, and the extravagant and corrupt lifestyles enjoyed by the offspring of China’s revolutionary leaders.

Despite its heavy emphasis on China, however, the show did not undergo any censorship by government authorities before its release, Charles Zhang, founder and chief executive of Sohu, said in an interview on Tuesday. The episodes available online on Sohu, said Mr. Zhang, are no different from the American version aside from the addition of Chinese subtitles. Sohu has secured the rights to broadcast the first three seasons of “House of Cards.”

“This is only a fictional story, not something that actually happened,” Mr. Zhang said.

The absence of censorship for the Chinese broadcast of the series is somewhat surprising in light of the rigid scrutiny normally applied to other foreign cultural imports, such as films and books. Before “Skyfall,” the latest James Bond film starring Daniel Craig, opened in mainland China last year, censors demanded the deletion of a scene in which Bond kills a Chinese security guard and rejected an entire storyline about the film’s villain, played by Javier Bardem, being tortured by the Chinese authorities. Books, fiction and nonfiction, have also similarly been subject to stringent censorship processes before release in the Chinese market.

But so far, it appears that the censors have taken a relatively relaxed approach to the newer medium of online television show imports. As of Tuesday, Mr. Zhang said, Sohu had not received any censorship requests. Responsibility for censorship of online video content is shared by the ruling Communist Party’s propaganda department, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

“I heard that some government officials are actually quite fond of the show,” said Mr. Zhang. “And that’s why we haven’t met with any trouble.”

Indeed, Wang Qishan, China’s top anticorruption czar, has enthusiastically confirmed that he is a big fan of the show, according to foreign visitors who have met with him…

Read the rest….

NYTimes.com


2 Comments on “Chinese Censors Have Kept Their Hands Off ‘House of Cards’”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet For the NYTimes, Amy Qin and Shanshan Wang write: “Mao is dead. And so is his China.” […]

  2. […] Chinese Censors Have Kept Their Hands Off ‘House of Cards’ (punditfromanotherplanet.com) […]


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