In one of the more bizarre examples of social media anxiety we’ve ever come across, China has banned all pictures and references to an actual stuffed cartoon teddy Pooh Bear due to unflattering – but nonetheless hilarious – references to President Xi Jinping.
Back in 2013, Chinese social media users noticed that a photo of Xi walking alongside Barack Obama bared a remarkable resemblance to a picture of Winne the Pooh walking next to Tigger. The meme took the Chinese internet by storm, and soon, users were comparing other photos of Xi to Winnie the Pooh.
“One of my favorites is the one of Japanese Prime Minister Abe shaking hands with President Xi,” said a Chinese blogger who was afraid to release his name, lest the wrath of the Great Firewall of China be released onto him. “They compared Abe to Eeyore, and Xi, as always, to Winnie the Pooh. But because our government doesn’t want us to have any fun ever, the meme has been effectively banned.”
When asked what he was going to do now that he can’t continue sharing and making Xi memes, the blogger responded. “Oh, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve got a VPN. Most people I know have VPNs. People will always find a way around the censorships. It’s not that difficult.”
The blogger admitted that the censorship says far more about the Communist Party of China’s thin stitching than it does the Chinese people as a whole.
“Censoring Winnie the Pooh has to be one of the most trite decisions the Chinese government has ever come up with,” said Aaron Liu, an Asian Studies professor. “I don’t think it gave off the appearance of the ‘strong arm of the government’ that they were going for. I mean, you banned a kids’ cartoon character that’s known for being “a bear of very little brain.”
Liu has been calling the Chinese government’s censorship “the Pooh Bear Scare,” and says he doubts it will have much of an effect on curbing similar jokes.
“The Pooh jokes are such harmless little things,” he said. “If anything, I see this making Chinese citizens raise an eyebrow at their government. Like, it’s Winne the Pooh! Come on, guys.”
Interestingly, this issue seems to have put more anxiety into Americans than it has the Chinese, many of whom express a sense of uneasiness at the thought of a governmental “strong-man” trying to ban things they enjoy simply because they resemble their thin-skinned wannabe despot.
“I know this doesn’t affect me much,” said Margot Mason, a random accountant from Chicago, Illinois that we touched base with. “But I’m afraid it might give Trump some ideas down the road. What if he tries to ban Chester Cheetah? Or Cheetohs in general? I’m not sure that’s a world I want to live in.”
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