The Government in China has declared Winnie the Pooh illegal!
Over the past weekend, the Chinese Government censored all images and references to A.A. Milne’s fun loving bear, Winnie the Pooh, and deemed him illegal. Any references to Winnie the Pooh on China’s heavily monitored social media sites saw the government censors hitting delete.
China is already notorious for monitoring and censoring the media and the internet within the Republic. Experts suggest that China’s internet censorship systems are the most convoluted and impenetrable in the world. The system is so sophisticated; these experts also have dubbed it “The Great Firewall of China.”
Consequently, the regular social media sites we enjoy in our daily life, such as Twitter and Facebook, are banned in the country. A study in 2002 suggested China forbade citizens from accessing around 18,000 external websites. Instead, China has internal versions of social media sites that replicate what their western counterparts do. However, the Republic keeps these, of course, heavily monitored, especially in regards to political content.
Restricted, censored, monitored, controlled
Users of Sina Weibo, a hybrid social media platform based on both Facebook and Twitter, were unable to search for “Little Bear Winnie.” “Little Bear Winnie” is the name the Chinese give to Winnie the Pooh. Additionally, Chinese users of WeChat discovered that they could no longer find the cute animated gifs of Pooh anywhere on their menu options.
The Chinese Government has not released an official reason for banning Pooh; however, much speculation surrounds the motivation. For example, on multiple occasions, the international media have used images of Pooh on memes representing President Xi Jin Ping. Furthermore, the Communist Party Congress will take place this Autumn. In other words, it appears as though the government is cracking down on potential political dissent.
The first instance involved a meme juxtaposing Mr. Xi and Pooh, which emerged in 2013. While on a trip to the US, an image of Mr. X meeting with Barak Obama began circulating beside a picture of Pooh and Tigger striking an identical pose. A year later, a picture of Mr. Xi standing through a car sun roof during a parade was juxtaposed with a picture of Pooh sitting in a toy car.
Ultimately, it is not clear what the connection is between Mr. Xi and Winnie the Pooh. Nevertheless, Global Risk Insights, a political consultancy organization revealed that Winnie the Pooh was the “most censored image of 2015” within China.
Ironically, due to the strict censorship of information going in and out of the Republic, the actual reason behind the ban may never be clear to us in the west.
What is unusual about the Chinese Government’s prohibition of the Winnie the Pooh imagery and references is that it is a disproportionate response. In the past, the Republic has blacklisted words and phrases that have they have previously connected to public political dissent that has taken place. Never before has the government banned a fictional cartoon character.
Throughout Mr. Xi’s rulership of the Republic, the dictator’s cult of personality has strived to present itself as warm-hearted and altruistic. Beijing has even publicly referred to him as “Uncle Xi” in order to make Mr. Xi appear as a generous and benevolent ruler.
Notoriously, leaders of regimes, such as the Republic of China, seem to the democratic west as harsh and narrow-minded authoritarians. The banning of the soft and lovable Winnie the Pooh does nothing to convince the west that it is possible that Mr. Xi could be anything other than a stereotypical dictator.