China’s Ambassador to the US Thinks “House of Cards” Is a Reality Show

Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, left, and Robin Wright as Clair Underwood in a scene from "House of Cards." Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, left, and Robin Wright as Clair Underwood in a scene from "House of Cards." Netflix/AP

The second season of House of Cards has plenty to offer its fans in China’s leadership—including, according to the country’s ambassador to Washington, some prime lessons about the graft and fraud that pervades the US political system.

“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,” ambassador Cui Tiankai told a panel at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing this week, according to the South China Morning Post.

The Netflix series certainly paints the US political system in an ugly light, depicting a Washington, DC filled with cynical back-room deals and the occasional murder. But what Cui notably failed to mention is that the show doesn’t do China any favors, either.

(Warning: spoilers ahead)

A major plot line in House of Cards, season two, concerns a princeling tycoon named Xander Feng who has interests in rare earths and US infrastructure projects(and, for some reason that is never really explained, kinky sex). Over the course of several episodes, Fang and other characters repeatedly observe that politics in China are deeply corrupt.

“Everyone in China who works on this level pays who they need to pay,” Feng tells Doug Stamper, vice-president Frank Underwood’s chief henchman.

House of Cards is available via online streaming sites in China, and it has escaped any “harmonization” by government censors, despite the fact that it depicts subjects—including Beijing’s diplomatic duplicity over its foreign exchange policies, and Underwood’s statement that “Mao is dead, and so is his China”—that would usually be forbidden. Tea Leaf Nation suggested that the reason the show is uncensored is that “occasional pot shots at China [are] allowed, so long as the U.S. political system looks every bit as rancid.”

So did Cui really watch House of Cards all the way through? Is he being willfully obtuse about what the show has to say about Chinese politics and corruption in the service of diplomatic one-upmanship? Or is he—and this would be a byzantine twist worthy of House of Cards itself—subtly expressing his own displeasure at Chinese corruption in the only way a Chinese diplomat can, by drawing attention to it while pretending he hasn’t seen it?

Or perhaps he has simply taken the pragmatic advice of Frank Underwood to heart:

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.