China’s state censors have banned Winnie the Pooh because of an internet meme depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping as the beloved children’s cartoons.
Social media users in China first became aware of the Pooh taboo when they could no longer post references to the cartoon.
The New York Times writes: “The Communist Party bristles at even the slightest hint of criticism, and censors are especially sensitive to any mockery involving Mr. Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades.”
Chinese censors have reportedly been after Winnie since 2013, when Internet users posted a picture of Xi with then President Obama walking together on an estate in California. Alongside that image was also posted an image of the tubby yellow bear and a smiling Tigger. The stride and body shape are funnily similar between Xi and Winnie, it has to be said.
Not all social media sites in China seem to have implemented the ban entirely; but, it has garnered enough attention to win the cartoon/meme the honor of being printed on the front page of the Financial Times, above the fold.
The original memes from 2013 were deleted as effectively as possible at the time with a new round of meming emerging in 2014, this time depicting an awkward handshake between Xi and Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who was depicted as Pooh’s sullen friend Eeyore the Donkey.
Social media users pondered how such cute characters could offend anyone as well as whether or not the use of Winnie The Pooh should be discontinued at Disneyland in Shanghai.
The censors are likely on high alert this week because of the death last week of a pro-democracy activist in China, who died from liver cancer while in prison. His death sparked outcry from supporters.
One study in 2015 found that Winnie the Pooh was the most censored image in China for that entire year.