Following up on the conversation we had in class on Thursday, the topic of House of Cards reminded me about an article I had read a couple days earlier. The piece, written in the Washington Post, talks about the release of the popular American drama in Mainland China.
Since its release on Sohu, China’s version of Netflix, the series has become a major hit among the country’s viewers, specifically among Chinese Communist leaders. According to data released from Sohu, the majority of the 24.5 million views from last season were from Chinese government employees and residents of the country’s capital, Beijing.
But why the sudden increase in interest among Chinese viewers?
The series, which follows the story of the scheming U.S. congressman Frank Underwood, portrays many of the political conspiracies in the United States—an issue that is prevalent among Chinese political leaders.
Some argue that the show has become popular among Chinese viewers because it resonates with the country’s history of backstabbing leadership and inner-party struggle. However, others contend that the show may also be popular in Mainland China because it reaffirms the country’s negative portrayal of U.S. politics. Still, others comment that Chinese viewers are simply curious about seeing some of the aspects of U.S. politics. With China’s government censors in the media, people would never see this kind of show about the Chinese government.
Whatever the reason, the increase popularity of the Netflix drama in China definitely represents a growing aspect of Sino-American public diplomacy, specifically cultural diplomacy. Similar to how Korean drama and music plays a big role in influencing how the international community views Korean culture, for many years U.S. media has played a huge role in shaping American culture. In the case of House of Cards, the drama depicts some of the characteristics of American political culture.