Liu Mengting, 24, a white-collar worker at an international company in Beijing, loves to watch TV shows and movies. She used to watch U.S. and South Korean TV shows most, but recently, she has fallen in love with Thai shows.
"One of my friends recommended the Thai movie Bad Genius (2017) to me, and I was amazed," she said. "I never thought cheating on a test could be represented as a thrilling spy story."
The movie opened in China on October 13, 2017 and made over 230 million yuan (.8 million) at the box office. Bad Genius also got a score of 8.2 out of 10 on China movie review website douban.com, triggering heated discussions on Thai movies and TV shows and the culture of the country.
Sa-ngopkarn Moungthong, the First Secretary at the Thai Embassy in Beijing, said Thailand is trending in China due to increased cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Nowadays, many Chinese TV stations and websites have Thai TV shows, and many Thai stars visit China to promote their new projects. Some have even acted in Chinese TV shows and movies.
"Now more and more Chinese are gaining a better understanding of Thailand, and they are more willing to know more about the culture and food. They also want to visit and witness Thailand for themselves," Moungthong said.
Southeastern pop culture
Liu is currently watching Thai shows, Fake Love (2018) and What the Duck the Series (2018). Both are idol dramas, and the latter is a boys' love show.
She loves Thai idol dramas and soap operas that have more "intense dramatic conflicts and beautiful actors and actresses than Chinese dramas."
Liu's favorite Thai TV show is Princess Hours (2017), which is a remake of the South Korean show of the same name. The show was simulcasted on Tencent's video website v.qq.com when it aired in Thailand in April 2017. It amassed over 100 million views in 10 days and has since been played over 400 million times.
The Ruci Yinghua Film Company cooperated with Tencent to bring Princess Hours to China. According to an employee, the company chose the show following years of research on website video viewers in China to find out their tastes.
"Thai idol dramas have a similar style to those from South Korea and Taiwan, so we can estimate that Thai idol dramas will attract many fans in China," she said, adding that Thai idol dramas are more popular among young Chinese aged 18 to 30 and are especially suitable for video websites.
"China and Thailand are both developing countries in Asia and have a similar cultural background and value system, so Thai shows can be accepted more by Chinese than other foreign countries," she said.
Moungthong thinks Chinese and Thais have similar tastes in TV shows and movies and sees it as one of the reasons Thai culture is increasingly popular in China.
"Most Thai TV shows are comedies, and they are more based on life unlike many Japanese and South Korean shows," he said.
"They are more in line with both Thai and Chinese young people's lifestyles. Also, many Thai stars come to China to shoot TV shows and movies, including Mike D'Angelo and Mario Muarer."
Liu agreed. "If the language in the movie did not remind me that it is a Thai movie, I would definitely think it is a Chinese story," she said. "The similarity of both sides' young people resonates with Chinese viewers."
Thai actor Panuwat Kerdthongtavee is 19-year-old university student Elsa Li's idol. She fell in love with the actor after watching the Thai TV show Two Moons (2017) and began to follow him online and attend his events in China. On August 16, 2017, she and 20 Chinese fans of the show went to Chengdu in Sichuan Province to participate in a fan meet and greet with the Two Moon's crew.
"I think Thai stars are the most available and easygoing stars I have ever been a fan of," Li said.