He may be one of the most beloved character’s in all of children’s fiction, but it would appear that Winnie the Pooh will not be appearing on screens throughout China this summer.
The anthropomorphic teddy bear, who first featured in a series of books by English author A. A. Milne but has gone on to appear in animated form and now the latest Disney live-action offering Christopher Robin, finds himself at the centre of a meme-scandal involving the Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
— Financial Times (@FT) July 16, 2017
For several years now, memes depicting Xi and Pooh as one and the same have flooded social media platforms. What began as relatively light-hearted mockery has since morphed into full blown political dissent and Chinese authorities have been blocking images of Pooh on social media since last year.
Speaking to SOAS Blogs, Professor Steve Tsang, Director of the SOAS China Institute, said:
Refusal for the movie ‘Christopher Robin’ to be released in China should surprise no one. Since the Chinese Government under President Xi Jinping consider it a bit of an insult to compare Winnie the Pooh to President Xi, a new movie that has lovely Pooh bear as a central character can never expect to pass the censors in China. It is probably a push to see this as Xi banning Pooh. I very much doubt that the decision went high up in the government or Communist Party hierarchy. Any film censor in China knows better than allowing a film that depicts Pooh as a central character and risks being held responsible for allowing something deemed disrespectful to Xi to be shown.
Winnie the Pooh’s problem probably goes beyond that of Peppa Pig. Peppa could potentially redeem herself if she were to be portrayed as completely supportive of President Xi’s policies. Pooh bear’s problem lies in his physical resemblance to President Xi and for being a comic character even if a much loved one. President Xi and his advisers expect and require the Chinese people to admire and respect him, and thus requires his image to be one of a heroic, authoritative, and wise one. Making fun of President Xi in a cartoonish way is too politically incorrect in the present political climate in China.
Christopher Robin will be released in cinemas this August.