The fourth season of “The Walking Dead,” a U.S. cable-television hit about how to survive a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world, has found a massive audience in China.
Since launching last December on Youku, China’s YouTube, it’s become the most watched season of any Western television show on that platform, with more than 27 million views and a user rating of 9.4 out of 10 stars.
China’s largest news agency, Xinhua, reported that as of Aug. 7, all episodes of the show had received a combined 250 million views in China across all video sites. The show’s Chinese title, “Traveling Corpses, Walking Meat” (or “xingshi zourou”), frequently trends on Weibo, China’s Twitter, when a new episode becomes available.
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Most Chinese-language reviews of “The Walking Dead” laud the show for its excellent acting and moving story lines.
The Oriental Morning Post, a popular Shanghai-based daily, wrote on Nov. 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 Oct. 13, China Central Television, the state-run television network that often acts as a mouthpiece for government authorities, criticized the popular children’s cartoon “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf” for excessive violence and adult language.
China’s morbid fascination with the apocalypse is another likely factor driving “The Walking Dead’s” popularity.
According to a May 2012 survey by the global market-research firm Ipsos, 20 percent of Chinese respondents said they believed that the world would end Dec. 21, 2012, compared with 12 percent of U.S. citizens and 4 percent of Germans.
In December 2012, a user on book- and movie-review site Douban wrote a short takeoff of Max Brooks’ tongue-in-cheek book “The Zombie Survival Guide” that accounted for China’s “special characteristics.” These included a lack of weapons (Chinese citizens are banned from carrying guns), a huge population and environmental pollution.