Chinese leaders are citing “Game of Thrones” in meetings

Who will sit on the iron throne?
Who will sit on the iron throne?
Image: Reuters//Caitlin Ochs
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The whole world loves Game of Thrones. Everyone is betting on who will die next in the treacherous tale of life in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, where any character might be felled at any moment. The fantasy show seems to be influencing everything from baby naming to fashion to office dramas—and now global politics.

This month marked the start of the HBO show’s eighth and final season, and references to the tale by George RR Martin have been proliferating among politicians. In the US, Donald Trump tweeted a GoT meme ahead of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in US elections. Meanwhile, 2020 presidential contender Elizabeth Warren wrote an essay entitled “The World Needs Fewer Cersei Lannisters” in The Cut (paywall) about why the character Danaerys Targeryn—aka Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains—should sit in the iron throne and rule the fictional kingdom.

In India, the government is posting GoT-themed memes on social media to encourage voting in the ongoing parliamentary elections. And in China, president Xi Jinping is earnestly referencing the show in talks with foreign leaders.

“We must all make sure the world we live in does not descend into the chaotic, warring, Seven Kingdoms of Westeros,” Xi reportedly told the group, according to an unnamed source who attended the meeting and spoke to the South China Morning Post. No specifics were provided as to who attended this meeting, what it was about, or in what context the president brought up GoT. (Perhaps it took place between The Faceless Men at the House of Black and White?)

A Chinese official, who also declined to give his name, told the publication that the president and other leaders receive a condensed version of the show—called the “diamond version”—which is even less racy than the censored Game of Thrones available to most viewers in China.

The president isn’t the only leader in China who is a fan of the show. The second-highest ranking official in the country, premier Li Keqiang, cited Game of Thrones in a recent visit to Croatia for the eighth Business Forum of Central and Eastern European Countries and China. The forum was held in Dubrovnik, the medieval Croatian city that’s better known to viewers worldwide as King’s Landing, which is the capital of the fantasy Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. There, the premier referred to the story in a discussion about China’s relations with Central and Eastern Europe, the South China Morning Post reports.

Dubrovnik, Croatia.
King’s Landing—aka, Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Image: Reuters

Given how violent and terrifying life in Westeros is—the political intrigue, the egos, the incest, and the battle for the iron throne—it’s perhaps not too heartening to hear that world leaders are thinking in such cinematic terms.

But there is something to be said for shared references and the way they help us to form a common culture—and it is amusing to think that the globe’s most powerful people are as hooked on the TV drama as all of us commoners.