• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 10:05am
NewsChina Insider

House of Cards embodies the corruption in American politics, says Chinese ambassador

According to Cui Tiankai, the drama showcases certain issues prevalent in Washington

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 8:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 5:48pm

China’s ambassador to the United States has chimed in on popular political drama House of Cards, arguing that the show exposes the disadvantages of American bipartisan politics.

“I have seen both seasons of House of Cards, which I think embodies some of the characteristics and corruption that is present in American politics,” said Cui Tiankai, speaking as a participant on a televised People’s Daily panel coinciding with the Chinese People’s Political Consultive Conference.

The Chinese diplomat, who previously studied in Washington, DC – the setting of House of Card’s intricate political machinations – added that the show’s story of bipartisan competition and corruption largely mirrored recent affairs.

“Currently, Americans are arguing and debating on how their two political parties have become so extreme,” Cui said. “Many things can never be accomplished because the interests of each party are of the greatest importance.”

But according to Liu Yu, a liberal columnist for Southern People Weekly, the show's depiction of corruption in the White House is exaggerated, and Washington politics are not nearly so simplistic. 

“In a sense, House of Cards is a work full of conspiracy theories,” Liu wrote. “Every word and every look from the male and female leads harbours a new conspiracy, and the biggest conspiracy of all is [the show's depiction of] democracy itself, where greedy and crafty statesmen try to outwit each other and deceive the populace for their own personal interests – all under the cover of ‘democracy.’”

Liu also quoted US president Barack Obama, a fan of House of Cards. Obama previously called the political dealings on the show “ruthlessly efficient” but a far cry from real life.

“Obama’s comments largely tell the truth about Washington politics – a variety of separation of powers, checks and balances,” Liu wrote. “It is an inefficient system… American democracy has evolved into a ‘vetocracy’ – where there are too many checks and balances and the opportunity to veto often renders reform intentions meaningless.”

This is not the first time that House of Cards has provided food for thought in China. The award-winning show, which portrays the ruthless manipulations of Democratic party whip Frank Underwood, has many fans in China and is one of the most popular programmes on Sohu.com, an internet streaming service. Wang Qishan, top-ranking head of the Communist Party's anti-corruption body, is reportedly an avid fan of the series.

A March 9 Financial Times editorial by Kurt Campbell, former US assistant secretary of state, asserts that many mainlanders are enamored of House of Cards because it portrays American politicians who may “echo something familiar in the modern Chinese experience [such as] the recent saga of Bo Xilai,” a famous politician now jailed for graft.

“In my experience, even the most cosmopolitan Chinese interlocutor harbours a deep ambivalence and uncertainty about Washington’s strategic intentions,” Campbell wrote. “It is widely believed that, beneath the surface, America’s vaunted democracy is rife with injustice and corruption.”

Members of China’s online microblogging community offered an alternate voice, and several criticised Cui for his comments.

“Americans are such that they do not hide their drawbacks, and through debate, constantly compromise to improve their government,” one Sina Weibo commentator wrote. “They see the problems of their [government], and also recognise their own shortcomings.”

“Of course there are issues with a two party system,” mused another blogger. “But a one party dictatorship can really harm people.”


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This article is now closed to comments

At the very least, the American mainstream media is open to acknowledging the flaws of its country's government. The Chinese media has none of that freedom, and China's just as corrupt (if not more so) as America.
China's version would be called "House of Smog"
Would like to see a Chinese version of House of Cards, but doubt a thing like that would ever be made.
Who is China's Frank Underwood?
Well, just please take into account that is a TV series. It is not BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera or CCTV. It is fiction, not journalism. So please do not believe that the Spider Man has a passport and a credit card. Gosh!!! And by the way, this is the American version of the British TV series House of Cards of the 1990's starring Ian Richardson.
Good work in watching a tv show, now you're an expert.
That's like me saying I've watched Nip/Tuck and I know how all cosmetic surgeons behave; even better I've watched over 2 seasons!
On a more serious note, at least there's an avenue to exposre the flaws, what do we have? And even if we have people who wants to be independant, they get chopped up.
"Who is China's Frank Underwood?"
Most probably Zhou Yongkang, but still not "verified" yet.
I agree with most of the comments so far: even IF bipartisan causes corruption (which I disagree), then one party does not? One party may expedite actions, but lack checks and balances.
IMO, Cui Tiankai is "barking up the wrong tree".
So I tell me kids, TV is make believe, it is not real!
Good to know someone that has such an important position politically (being an ambassador to a major trading partner) cannot tell the difference between make believe and reality.
BTW I have a bridge in San Fransisco for sale real cheap wanna buy?
The reason that House of Cards is so popular in China is that the politicians it portrays are much more like Chinese leaders than American leaders. Most American politicians have some beliefs, some principles, some ideologies, even if that is mixed with a fair degree of ambition. Indeed, it is intense disagreement over fundamental issues of principle that has lead to the current impasse in D.C. On the other hand, most Chinese leaders seem to be motivated purely by personal ambition.


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