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How 'The Walking Dead' Prepares China for the Zombie Apocalypse

It's spreading. 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 Dec. 2012 on Youku, China's YouTube, it's become the most-watched season of any Western television show on that platform, with over 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," (xingshi zourou) frequently trends on Weibo, China's Twitter, when a new episode becomes available.

Most Chinese-language reviews of The Walking Dead laud the show for its excellent acting and moving storylines. 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 [sic] for excessive violence and adult language. With squeamish censors still worried about cartoon violence, a Chinese show featuring zombie gore stands little chance of getting produced.

China's morbid fascination with the apocalypse is another likely factor driving The Walking Dead's popularity. According to a May 2012 survey conducted by the global market research firm Ipsos, 20 percent of Chinese respondents said they believed that the world would end Dec. 21, 2012, compared to 12 percent of U.S. citizens and 4 percent of Germans. In Dec. 2012, a user on book and movie review site Douban wrote a short take-off 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.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, populous China would likely have it rougher than the United States. But with shows like The Walking Dead, at least both nations have a basic roadmap. 

Sina Weibo/Fair Use

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Taliban Leader Killed -- for the Fifth Time

Four missiles fired from a drone came crashing down on a car in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan recently, reportedly killing Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Mehsud was a feared and brutal leader: Under his watch, the Pakistani Taliban orchestrated suicide bombings against Pakistani military targets, claimed responsibility for the attempted killing of Malala Yousafzai, and organizing a suicide bombing against a CIA outpost in Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of seven American CIA officers and contractors.

Both Pakistani government officials and a high-ranking member of the Taliban confirmed Mehsud's death. Taliban officials have never before corroborated rumors of their leader's death, lending credence to the story. But you'll be forgiven if this feels like déjà vu: Mehsud has made a career of disproving reports of his demise.

Here are the times that the world's counter-terrorism officials thought they had gotten the notorious jihadist, only to be proven wrong.

August 2009: Pakistani officials told the New York Times that Mehsud had been killed by a rival Taliban commander in a power struggle over who would lead the Pakistani Taliban after the movement's leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike.

The Pakistani Taliban soon announced that Hakimullah Mehsud would head the movement - even as Pakistani intelligence officials continued to insist that he was dead. The Pakistani interior minister said Mehsud was gravely injured and the Taliban was looking to use his younger brother as a stand-in.

October 2009: Just a few months later, U.S. counterterrorism officials fueled new rumors of Mehsud's demise. "There's reason to believe that Hakimullah may have died recently," the official said, citing infighting within the Taliban as a cause.

Two days later, a healthy-looking Mehsud appeared in a video to promise new attacks against the United States and Pakistan. "I am alive and sitting in front of you. All the stories about my death were baseless. You can see me that I am alive," he said.

January 2010: Western military officials said that Mehsud was killed in a drone strike in mid-January, while Pakistani state television reported that the Taliban leader had been buried.

Pakistani intelligence officials told the Washington Post that Mehsud was "100 percent" dead. However, Pakistani and U.S. officials were a bit more circumspect to the New York Times, saying only that they were "increasingly convinced" Mehsud had succumbed to wounds from a drone attack. 

The Pakistani Taliban responded by saying that the allegation was a "total lie." By April 2010, officials reversed their earlier claims of Mehsud's death.

January 2012: Pakistani intelligence officials claimed to have intercepted Taliban radio communications that suggested Mehsud had been killed in a U.S. drone strike. Apparently, the militants were as confused as the media about their leader's health - they were debating whether he was still alive, with some militants saying he was dead.