Winnie-the-Pooh, the adorable teddy bear, created by English author AA Milne has fallen out of love from the internet in China. Despite no official words out yet, the reason is zeroed on the comparison between Winnie the Pooh with the Chinese President, Xi Jinping in viral memes shared on social media platform Sina Weibo and instant messaging app WeChat. The meme which started on the internet in 2013 after a picture of President Xi with then US Prez, Barack Obama walking side by side was compared to that of the Winnie The Pooh and Tigger, a tiger. The adorable bear is being censored on Chinese social media for comparisons of Communist party leader with the self-described “bear of very little brain”. AIB in Trouble Again: Top Controversies of All India Bakchod from Snapchat Dog Filter on PM Modi Doppelganger to Infamous Roast.
According to the Financial Times reports, despite no official word coming from the Chinese Government, the censors began cleansing the memes from the internet. On attempting to post the Chinese characters for Winnie’s name on Weibo over the weekend, it returned with the message “content is illegal”. Apart from flashing error messages, Winnie the Pooh stickers have also been removed from WeChat’s official sticker gallery. Nevertheless, user-generated GIFs of the slow-witted bear with a weakness for honey are still available in the popular messaging app. These memes, illustrations and GIFs comparing the China President to slow-witted, good-natured bear are slowly wiped off the internet.
China’s ruling Communist Party is highly sensitive to comical depictions of its leader. The crackdown on the social media was always predicted to be on its way. The posts comparing President Xi with the cartoon bear is taken down apart from blocking users of WeChat and Weibo, which is China’s bigger-than-Twitter microblogging platform from using the name of the affable bear. Now the strict censorship in China does make us feel fortunate for living in India, where the recent viral meme of Narendra Modi’s lookalike with the Snapchat only gave them a FIR.
Apart from the onset of Pooh Bear comparisons with President Xi in 2013, the jokes continued the following year. In 2014, a photograph of President Xi shaking hands with the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was compared with an image of Pooh Bear shaking the hoof of his gloomy donkey friend Eeyore. In 2015, 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 the year, prompting the Chinese government to add “Winnie the Pooh” to its internet search blacklist. Despite the cartoon character courting controversies earlier, censorship on such a scale is witnessed only this time around.