Internet memes such as this that compare Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh have been censored in China.

Beginning in July 2017, the Chinese government censored imagery of the anthropomorphic teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh, particularly Disney's version of the character. The censorship is believed to be a result of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping being compared to the character in Internet memes, which the Chinese government saw as a disrespectful mockery of the leader of its country. Despite the censorship, there is no ban on books and toys of the Winnie the Pooh character, which can still be purchased widely in the country. Two Pooh-themed rides still operate in Shanghai Disneyland.[1][2]

Background

Censorship in China

Main article: Censorship in China

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses extensive censorship. For instance, the Chinese government has censored topics regarding the Cultural Revolution and CCP chairman Mao Zedong, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and Taiwan.[3]

The Chinese government's censorship, which was initially limited to the mainland, is now spreading to other regions, such as Taiwan. For instance, in 2017 Taiwanese universities were asked to refrain from discussing sensitive issues in class, including unification/independence or "One China, One Taiwan". Due to the financial benefits of fee-paying mainland students, over 80 of 157 universities agreed to the demands, which compromised their academic independence.[3]

Comparisons between Xi Jinping and Winnie the Pooh

Chinese Internet users have frequently compared Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh: the comparisons serve to satirize Xi's publicly projected image. Xi attempts to portray himself as serious, whereas Winnie-the-Pooh is a comedic and cartoon character for children.[4]

Comparisons between the cartoon character and Xi Jinping date back to 2013, when the Chinese leader visited Barack Obama in the United States. An image of the two leaders walking was immediately compared to that of the bear and his friend Tigger. The humorous tone on social media that day was repeated on other occasions with other leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who Internet users saw as a reasonable resemblance to Eeyore, the sad donkey that is also part of Winnie-the-Pooh's adventures. Very reluctant to permit any humorous comment about Xi, authorities ended up condemning the bear when some political activists and dissidents used it to express their discontent.[5]

The Chinese government has blocked images and mentions of Winnie the Pooh on social media because Internet users have been using the character to mock CCP general secretary Xi Jinping. This is part of a larger effort to restrict bloggers from getting around censorship in China. The government is not only concerned with avoiding the ridicule of its leaders but also with preventing the character from becoming an online euphemism for the Communist Party's general secretary.[4]

Cultural impact

In October 2019, Pooh was featured in the South Park episode "Band in China" because of his alleged resemblance with Xi. In the episode, Pooh is brutally killed by Randy Marsh. South Park was banned in China as a result of the episode.[6][7]

On March 21, 2023, movie distributor VII Pillars Entertainment announced on Facebook that Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, originally scheduled to be released on March 23, would be cancelled for release in the Hong Kong and Macau regions. This move is suspected to be influenced by the amendment of Hong Kong's film censorship regulations in 2021, which prohibits the public screening of movies that are deemed "potentially harmful to national security". However, VII Pillars Entertainment did not provide any explanation for the decision.[8]

On 8 April 2023, the Taiwanese Air Force released an image of a Taiwanese pilot. The pilot was wearing a shoulder patch depicting a Formosan black bear punching Winnie the Pooh. The badge was designed by Alec Hsu in 2022. After the photo went viral, Mr. Hsu ordered more patches due to its popularity with civilians and the military alike. "I wanted to boost the morale of our troops through designing this patch," he told the media. The patch is not an official part of the Taiwanese Air Force's uniform however the military "will maintain an open attitude" to things that raise morale.[9]

See also

References

  1. ^ Westcott, Ben; Jiang, Steven (2018-08-08). "Taiwan mocks Beijing over new Winnie the Pooh film". CNN. Retrieved 2023-09-13.
  2. ^ "How Banned Is Winnie the Pooh in China, Really?". MEL Magazine. 2020-09-23. Retrieved 2023-09-13.
  3. ^ a b Wong, Matthew Y. H.; Kwong, Ying-Ho (2019). "Academic Censorship in China: The Case of The China Quarterly". PS: Political Science & Politics. 52 (2): 287–292. doi:10.1017/S1049096518002093. S2CID 159158268.
  4. ^ a b McDonell, Stephen (17 July 2017). "Why China censors banned Winnie-the-Pooh". BBC. Archived from the original on 8 January 2019. Retrieved 22 March 2023.
  5. ^ Fontdeglòria, Xavier (8 August 2018). "Ursinho Pooh é censurado na China pelas comparações com Xi Jinping" [Winnie the Pooh is censored in China for comparisons with Xi Jinping]. EL PAÍS Brasil (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 23 March 2023. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  6. ^ Parker, Ryan; Brzeski, Patrick (7 October 2019). "'South Park' Scrubbed From Chinese Internet After Critical Episode". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 10 October 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  7. ^ Brito, Christopher (2019-10-08). ""South Park" creators offer fake apology to China after reported ban". www.cbsnews.com. Archived from the original on 2019-10-11. Retrieved 2023-01-16.
  8. ^ "Winnie the Pooh horror film will not be shown in Hong Kong or Macau". BBC News. 2023-03-21. Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  9. ^ Wu, Sarah; Yew, Lun Tian (2023-04-10). "A punch in the face for Xi caricature: Taiwan air force badge goes viral". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2023-04-10. Retrieved 2023-04-11.