Monday, July 17, 2017

Why China Bans Winnie the Pooh in Social Media

By Asia Pop Culture


We all know that in addition to its Great Firewall, China also diligently censors web discussions related to a long list of sensitive subjects such as Tibet, Taiwan and human rights abuses.  Now Winnie the Pooh, the Honey-loving fictional Disney cartoon and kid's book character, has made that honor roll as well.

The New York Times reported that internet users in China have in recent days reported problems posting references to Winnie the Pooh on social media sites.  Shanghaiist noted that searches for 小熊维尼 (the Chinese name of Winnie the Pooh) on Weibo returned only error messages of "content is illegal," while on WeChat a collection of animated gifs featuring the beloved AA Milne character was removed.

Beijing usually do not provide any official explanation for things like this, but it likely has something to do with some mocking online comparisons are using images of a chubby Pooh to suggest a resemblance to President Xi Jinping.

Back in 2013, images of Xi taking a stroll with then US President Obama at the Sunnylands Estate in California went viral after the side-by-side comparison of Xi/Obama vs another pair of Disney BFFs: Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (跳跳虎).

A similar mocking comparison was also made in 2014 with the extremely awkward handshake between Xi and the Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe.



This kind of humor and making fun of the President is very common in the West without any repercussion.  Beijing and Xi obviously cannot take a joke.  

Some speculate this could also be part of the heightened censorship following the death of China's most famous jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo who passed away last Thursday.  

It's not clear how widespread this ban is. According to Shanghaiist, anything having to do with Xi has been purged when performing a search of  "小熊维尼" (Winnie the Pooh) on Weibo.  Writing the bear's name in comments on posts is also banned.  In addition, Taiwan News Online noted that image of Pooh in a car next to Xi in his limo (below) has also been banned.

Banned image on Chinese social media of Pooh, Xi in limo

It is interesting to note that "The Great Chinese Censorship Machine" is available on demand as well. Last year China censored results on Baidu and Weibo for "Kim Fatty III" after North Korea requested that Chinese netizens stop calling their beloved leader fat.

Editor's note:  After we posted this story on July 17, Shanghaiist reported a day later on July 18 that people can now "freely" post Winnie the Pooh's name on Weibo comments.  We are not sure if this is a spin to be interpreted as a simple "technical glitch" of  Weibo or the ban on Pooh has been lifted, which we have serious reservation.   

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