Has Winnie the Pooh done something to anger China’s censors? The lovable but dimwitted bear, with a weakness for “hunny,” has been surprisingly blocked on Chinese social networks. While there has been no official explanation, buzz is that the self-described “bear of very little brain” has been used in the past in a meme comparing him to portly Chinese President Xi Jinping. Comparisons between Xi and Pooh first emerged in 2013, after Chinese social media users began circulating a pair of pictures that placed an image of Pooh and his slender tiger friend “Tigger” beside a photograph of Xi walking with then-US President Barack Obama.
In 2014, a photographed handshake between Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was matched with an image of Pooh gripping the hoof of his gloomy donkey friend Eeyore. And in 2015, the political analysis portal Global Risk Insights called a picture of Xi standing up through the roof of a parade car paired with an image of a Winnie the Pooh toy car “China’s most censored photo” of the year.
Posts bearing the image and the Chinese characters for Winnie the Pooh were still permitted on the Twitter-like Weibo platform. But comments referencing “Little Bear Winnie” — Pooh’s Chinese name — turned up error messages saying the user could not proceed because “this content is illegal.” Winnie the Pooh stickers have also been removed from WeChat’s official “sticker gallery,” but user-generated gifs of the bear are still available on the popular messaging app.
With the chaos on Chinese social media, Twitterati also fired their opinions peppered with sarcasm and disappointment. Take a look at some tweets here.
Some bloggers in China have made fun of Pres Xi Jinping’s plumpness by posting pics of Winnie the Pooh. So Pooh is censored….
— John Simpson (@JohnSimpsonNews) July 17, 2017
yuzu: shld we go Cup of China next season?
pooh: im banned in China
yuzu: oh bother
— texts from pooh (@poohbear_txts) July 17, 2017
I log into Twitter and the first news article I see is “China censors Winnie the Pooh because of meme.” What a time to be alive.
— Kira Buckland ★ (@rinachan) July 17, 2017
Pooh was blacklisted in China because of the popularity of this photo. I guess China won’t take criticism sitting down. pic.twitter.com/ISbDdoBkwz
— JoeAm (@societyofhonor) July 18, 2017
Mentions of ‘Winnie The Pooh’ On WeChat Suddenly Shot Up To Nearly 3 Million. I wonder why… 😋 pic.twitter.com/ARWDI0XZPy
— Matthew Brennan (@MattyBGooner) July 17, 2017
Winnie the Pooh has been banned in China b/c he’s an icon for dissidents.
That’s probably why Chinese dissent fails so badly.
— Populo Iratus (@cmahar3) July 17, 2017
Winnie the Pooh is banned in China after memes appear comparing Chinese president to the character. pic.twitter.com/eRrnEbjNSl
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) July 17, 2017
Tubby little cubby all stuffed with counterrevolutionary subversion https://t.co/fiWbJrUPEP
— Maggie n’ Snowball (@maggie_snowball) July 17, 2017
China’s internet has blacklisted Winnie the Pooh because he’s been compared to their president 😂 pic.twitter.com/Ov3rz5rOoP
— Dumblewhore 🏳️🌈 (@popahmolly) July 17, 2017
Qiao Mu, an independent media studies scholar and former professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the blocked bear content was unsurprising given the ruling Communist Party’s sensitivity to depictions of its leader. It is a particularly sensitive year as Xi is expected to consolidate power at a key party congress this fall. “It’s very murky what’s allowed and what isn’t, because officials never put out statements describing precisely what will be censored,” Qiao said, noting that many Winnie the Pooh photos were still proliferating on the Chinese internet.
In other contexts, references to the staple Chinese breakfast food “baozi” have been taken down for evoking the president’s nickname: “Steamed Bun Xi,” Qiao said. Today many Chinese social media users were testing the boundaries of the restrictions imposed on the bear who groan, “oh, bother” when things don’t go his way. “Poor Little Winnie,” one Weibo user wrote. “What did this adorable honey-loving bear ever do to provoke anyone?”