OH, bother. Winnie the Pooh has been banned in China.
Over the weekend, government censors began deleting animated GIFs and posts containing the name of A.A. Milne’s cartoon teddy bear on social media platform Sina Weibo and instant messaging app WeChat, the Financial Times reported.
Neither the Chinese government nor the internet platforms gave any comment, but observers said the crackdown was likely due to a long-running internet meme comparing Chinese President Xi Jinping to the slow-witted, good-natured bear.
The meme started in 2013 when a side-by-side image of President Xi as Winnie and US President Barack Obama as Tigger went viral. The following year, a similar image with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe standing in for sad donkey Eeyore continued the theme.
According to Global Risk Insights, an image of President Xi standing up through a car roof during a parade and a children’s toy car was the most censored image of 2015, prompting the Chinese government to add “Winnie the Pooh” to its internet search blacklist.
According to the Financial Times, attempts to post the Chinese characters for Winnie’s name on Weibo over the weekend returned the message “content is illegal”.
Qiao Mu, assistant professor of media at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the paper “talking about the president” appeared to have been added to “political organising and political action” as activities disallowed by Chinese authorities.
He said online commentators had been detained after posting comments about the president. “I think the Winnie issue is part of this trend,” he said.
Global Risk Insights analyst Jeremy Luedi described Beijing’s reaction to the Winnie the Pooh meme as “disproportionate and puzzling”. “Firstly, where some see harmless fun, Beijing sees a serious effort to undermine the dignity of the presidential office and Xi himself,” he wrote.
“Beijing’s reaction is doubly odd given the fact that Xi has made substantial efforts to create a cult of personality showing him as a benevolent ruler; going so far as to promote the moniker ‘Xi Dada’, or ‘Uncle Xi’.”
By Frank Chung
News Corporation Network