Reprinted from Asia Times
Pope Francis may be the rock star. But once again, the real heart of the action is all about Russia and China -- those prime "threats" to Exceptionalistan, according to the Pentagon.
Where's Benjamin's Angel of History when we need him? His gaze is now certainly focused on the home of the brave. Francis may have brought the House down in DC, but it's Xi Jinping who really rocked da house in the West Coast, while Putin gets ready to be crowned the new King of New York. Who'd imagine that the New Great Game in Eurasia could be so fun?
Calling Frank Underwood
Even before Putin talked new world order geopolitical business at the UN, China's Xi Jinping was talking Silicon Valley business with, well, the whole Silicon Valley elite. It's all in the photo, delightfully deconstructed by the South China Morning Post.
This is where the action is -- much more than in what Xi may have discussed with Obama; cyberspace piracy, spying, new Japanese laws on defense, the environment. China needs top IT to turbo-charge not only the internal market but also key nodes of the New Silk Roads.
Even Facebook was allowed to bow to the Red Emperor. Mark Zuckerberg, in suit and red tie, talked to Xi for less than a minute, in Mandarin, at Microsoft's campus. Side by side was none other than a smiling Lu Wei -- who controls China's Great Firewall, which blocks, among others, Facebook. As a priceless aside, here's Internet-alert Lu Wei calling all and sundry to "sail into the future with mutual benefit and win-win."
Barely blinking while he bought 300 Boeings for lunch, Xi's real howler in the West Coast was his House of Cards gambit.
Referring to Beijing's massive crackdown on graft, he said, "We have punished tigers and flies ... It has nothing to do with power struggles. In this case there is no House of Cards."
Non-biased China hands all interpret the anti-corruption campaign as essentially a clean up of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) so it may continue to rule ad infinitum. It's the party, stupid. So obviously there's a "hard rain's gonna fall" component, because resistance from powerful interest groups is immense.
The irruption of House of Cards was predictable. Much more than a nod to Netflix, this was about China. According to GlobalWebIndex, no less than over 200 million Chinese have been using VPNs to get to Netflix and watch the season 3 of House of Cards on streaming video.
Millions among these are Beijing residents, comfortably middle class; and that includes a lot of Party heavyweights -- such as the head of the anti-corruption committee, Wang Qishan, a huge fan of Frank Underwood. Check out this priceless Global Times piece showing how House of Cards heavily draws from Sun Tzu's The Art of War.
On top of it, season 2 of House of Cards was already China-intense, featuring cyber-war, the South China Sea and currency manipulation. Sharp Chinese viewers inevitably compared factional fighting in Washington with Beijing's anti-graft campaign, which, so far, has nailed 80,000 functionaries, at least 90 high-caliber politicians and 30 PLA generals. China Daily didn't measure its words -- stating that House of cards represents a "mirror" of these Chinese functionaries.
Xi knew exactly who his audience was when he invoked US soft power -- tremendously popular in China -- to send a message. And he also knew that even when the American system is critically eviscerated -- as in House of Cards -- the fascination quotient of US soft power remains unbeatable. If you can't beat them, join them. Why not instrumentalize House of Cards as Beijing deploys its own version of The Art of War?
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