China can’t get enough of ‘House of Cards’ and that scares Washington

The World
Updated on
House of Cards_China

In the first 24 hours that Season Three of the Netflix series 'House of Cards' was released, 681,889 people around the world downloaded the show, illegally.

Where Netflix isn't available, pirates rule. Data from piracy-tracking firm Excipio identified the top five pirating countries as: China, India, Australia, Poland and Greece.

But in some of these non-Netflix countries, third party websites like China's SohuTV work directly with show producers to allow hit shows like 'House of Cards' to stream on their website. SohuTV reported that the second season of 'House of Cards' was ranked No. 1 among the lists of their American programs they stream.

The award-winning political drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright paints a dark and corrupt picture of American politics. The fact that Chinese audiences love the show worries some in Washington. Most of those in China who streamed Season Two of the show came from government employees and Beijing, according to Sohu. (Sohu, by the way, just made a deal with Lorne Michaels and his production team to launch a Chinese spinoff of Saturday Night Live.)

"House of Cards" fans dot China's ruling party. In a recent interview with a Hong Kong-based magazine, Wang Qishan, the head of the communist party's anti-corruption body, said he particularly liked Spacey's character, saying that he exercised "discipline" in a legislative role.

On China's social media platforms like Weibo, many fans of the show say Qishan's appreciation of the show might be why the government hasn't censored it. But back in Washington, Michael Auslin, with the American Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Post that the popular viewership of the show is painting a very bad image for the US in China. 

“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 … That said, it’s probably not a great thing if this is the only side they’re seeing…To truly understand US politics, I would prefer they watch C-SPAN, but that’s probably not realistic.”

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