China figures heavily in the second season of the Netflix series House of Cards, but how accurately does the show portray U.S.-China relations? Steven Jiang, a journalist for CNN in Beijing, binged-watched all 13 recently released web-only episodes over the weekend. Donald Clarke, professor of Chinese law at George Washington University, responded to our query saying we’d reached his “inner nerd.” Jiang and Clarke started us off putting the lie to Hollywood’s portrayal of U.S.-China relations, and were followed by Kaiser Kuo, director of international communications for the Chinese search engine Baidu and co-host of the Sinica Podcast, and by Evan Osnos, staff writer at The New Yorker.
Corruption: House of Cards' fictional Chinese billionaire Xander Feng, though twice tried for corruption at home, says he can sway the senior leadership of the Communist Party. Question: Possible?
Steven Jiang: Not really. It’s like saying [disgraced Chinese politician] Bo Xilai came out of prison but was tried for corruption again—and he got released again and became best pals with [Chinese President] Xi Jinping.
Kaiser Kuo: If he’s supposed to be a princeling whose grandfather fought alongside Mao and was one of the Eight Immortals, then it’s plausible that he would have access and even influence within the very senior echelons of the Party leadership. The impossible part of course is the notion that he’d been brought up twice on corruption charges and acquitted. This to me was the most egregious bit in Feng’s backstory, and one that was wholly unnecessary to establish that he was walking a fine line.