Willy, Nilly, Silly Old Bear Banned in China


Pooh Bear does look rather presidential, doesn't he? Matt Cardy/MJ Kim/Getty Images
Pooh Bear does look rather presidential, doesn't he? Matt Cardy/MJ Kim/Getty Images

When you think "enemy of the people," who do you see in your mind's eye? Someone evil, no doubt — a nefarious villain bent on world destruction. A tricky, slippery traitor ready to corrupt the country at any cost. A willy, nilly, silly old bear.

OK, probably not. But the fact that Chinese censors have begun to block Winnie the Pooh on Chinese social media sites might lead you to believe that the honey-obsessed bear is less innocent than he seems. Is masquerading as a Little Black Rain Cloud an attempt at deep surveillance?

Perhaps. But if so, that's not China's problem with Pooh. Instead, Chinese censors are more concerned that some citizens have been sharing memes that poke fun at Chinese President Xi Jinping by comparing the slightly rotund world leader with a chubby little tubby all stuffed with fluff.

From pictures of him meeting with an Eeyore counterpart (in reality, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe) to a cute pic of him cheerfully enjoying a car ride, bloggers began back in 2013 creating viral images that probably weren't terribly flattering in a culture where the president has little responsibility to maintain a warm or irreverent image.

So for now, at least, censors have begun to see Pooh Bear as a way for citizens to criticize the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, president of the People's Republic of China, and chairman of the Central Military Commission — all titles that Xi Jinping holds. And that means that places like Weibo and WeChat (wildly popular social networking sites in China) will throw you an error message for referencing Little Bear Winnie (Winnie's Chinese name), or some images of the Pooh.

Oh bother, indeed.