Winnie the Pooh has been censored on Chinese social media, thanks to the comparisons on memes between the communist country’s president, Xi Jinping, and the cartoon bear.
The first time Winnie the Pooh grabbed the attention of the communist party’s censorship in China was in 2013 when memes compared the characters in the cartoon to former president Barack Obama, and Xi Jinping. Censorship has proven to be an effective propaganda arm of totalitarian regimes, but it isn’t limited to China. Left-leaning media in the United States has even claimed recently that “alt-right memes” will be the downfall of democracy.
Winnie the Pooh‘s black out on Chinese social media was done because of the lead-up to the country’s 19th Communist Party Congress this fall, the Financial Times reported Sunday. Although no official explanation was given by the Chinese, observers have claimed the crackdown may be related to past comparisons of the physical appearance of President Xi Jinping to the fictional bear. One observer said “talking about the president” appeared to be among activities deemed sensitive ahead of the upcoming party congress, when leadership renewal is expected.
Winnie the Pooh has become too politically sensitive to even be mentioned on Chinese social media. The bear’s blackout is the latest escalation of online censorship in the run-up to this autumn’s Communist party congress, where key political appointments will be announced. “Historically, two things have been not allowed in Communist regimes: political organizing and political action. But this year a third has been added to the list: talking about the president,” said Qiao Mu, assistant professor of media at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Qiao said he knew of online commentators who were detained after posting remarks about the president. He added, “I think the Winnie issue is part of this trend.”
A photo of Xi standing up through the roof of a parade car, next to a picture of Winnie the Pooh in a toy car, was named the “most censored image of 2015” by political consultancy Global Risk Insights. The FT report said posts with the Chinese name of the portly cartoon bear character were censored on China’s Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo. A collection of animated gifs featuring the bear were also removed from social messaging app WeChat, according to the FT.
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