US zombie series 'The Walking Dead' becomes big hit in China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 4:11am

It's spreading. The fourth season of The Walking Dead, the US cable television hit about how to survive a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world, has found a huge audience in China.

Since launching in December 2012 on Youku, The Walking Dead has become the most-watched Western television show on the platform. Just four episodes in, the latest season already has over 27 million views and a user rating of 9.4 out of 10 stars. Xinhua reported that as of August 7, all episodes of the show had received a combined 250 million views in China across all video sites.

The show's Chinese title, Travelling Corpses, Walking Meat ( xingshi zourou), frequently trends on Weibo when a new episode becomes available.

Most Chinese-language reviews of The Walking Dead laud the show for its excellent acting and moving storylines. Shanghai's Oriental Morning Post, wrote on November 1 that The Walking Dead "has gone beyond the boundaries of traditional zombie shows", tackling questions about "how human nature and society change in extreme conditions".

The show is especially attractive to Chinese fans because there's no domestic equivalent on cable television. China lacks a ratings system for film or television, so shows with more violent content are rarer.

Authorities have banned some television shows for being too violent for any viewer, and on October 13, China Central Television criticised the popular children's cartoon Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf for excessive violence and adult language. With squeamish censors still worried about cartoon violence, a Chinese show featuring zombie gore stands little chance of getting produced.

China's morbid fascination with the apocalypse is another possible factor driving The Walking Dead's popularity. According to a May 2012 survey conducted by the global market research firm Ipsos, 20 per cent of Chinese respondents said they believed that the world would end on December 21, 2012 in line with the Mayan calendar, compared to 12 per cent of US citizens and just four per cent of Germans.

In December 2012, a user on the book and movie review site Douban wrote a short take-off of Max Brooks' tongue-in-cheek book The Zombie Survival Guide that accounted for China's "special characteristics". These included a lack of guns, a huge population and environmental pollution.