Memes likening China’s president Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh has caused enough upset to the leader that he has chosen to ban the release of the film Christopher Robin in China. Xi is obviously affronted by the images which strikingly compare the similarities between him and the beloved, big-bellied, yet dim-witted Pooh Bear. Undoubtedly this comparison has done a number on his self-esteem, perhaps bringing up body issues that Xi has struggled with out of public eye (Pooh is on the larger side), or perhaps it resurfaces an inferiority complex within Xi wherein America is concerned (note in the image above that President Obama as Tigger is markedly taller and slimmer). Either way, the President is sensitive enough about the comparison that Chinese blogging platform Weibo is prevented from using the using the term ‘Winnie the Pooh’.
Or maybe the ban comes from less of a personal feeling of inadequacy, but from a darker place of political domination and censorship. Winnie the Pooh is an unlikely character in politics and is even more so an unlikely character to be found as a symbol of the Chinese anti-communist resistance, but anything is possible in today’s climate. Pooh’s image has transcended a physical mocking of the Chinese president and has become a symbol and character used to criticise and mock the Chinese regime itself. After the announcement in February that the Chinese Communist party were considering abolishing presidential term limits, they responded by posting pictures of Winnie the Pooh such as the ones below. Following these images, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ joined the list of government censored phrases which included ‘I don’t agree,’ ‘migration,’ ‘emigration,’ ‘election term,’ ‘constitution rules,’ and ‘proclaiming oneself an emperor.’
The banning of Christopher Robin in China, although laughable, is another tactic of the Chinese government to repress freedom of speech and continue its pattern of oppression. The ban hasn’t troubled the film, which has made a solid total of $25million at the global box office, and the people of China will certainly live having not seen it, however we should be looking beyond the short-term effect of this ban, into the future and into what Xi’s willingness to censor anything that criticises him or his regime indicates for the country of China.