Wed, Aug 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

China bans Winnie the Pooh film after comparisons to Xi

TOUCHY REGIME:Memes comparing Xi Jinping to the portly bear have become a lighthearted way for people in China to mock the president

The Guardian

Who is afraid of Winnie the Pooh? The Chinese government, apparently.

Chinese censors have banned the release of Christopher Robin, a new film adaptation of A.A. Milne’s beloved story about Winnie the Pooh, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The Winnie the Pooh character has become a lighthearted way for people across China to mock Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), but it seems Beijing does not find the joke very funny.

It started when Xi visited the US in 2013, and an image of Xi and then-US president Barack Obama walking together spurred comparisons to Winnie — a portly Xi — walking with Tigger, a lanky Obama.

Xi was again compared to the fictional bear in 2014 during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took on the part of the pessimistic, gloomy donkey, Eeyore. As comparisons grew and the meme spread online, censors began erasing the images that mocked Xi.

The Web site of US television station HBO was blocked last month after comedian John Oliver repeatedly made fun of Xi’s apparent sensitivity over comparisons of his figure with that of Winnie.

The segment also focused on China’s dismal rights record.

Another comparison between Xi and Winnie during a military parade in 2015 became that year’s most censored image, according to Global Risk Insights.

The Chinese government viewed the meme as “a serious effort to undermine the dignity of the presidential office and Xi himself,” the firm said.

“Authoritarian regimes are often touchy, yet the backlash is confusing, since the government is effectively squashing a potential positive, and organic, public image campaign for Xi,” the report said.

“Beijing’s reaction is doubly odd given the fact that Xi has made substantial efforts to create a cult of personality showing him as a benevolent ruler,” it said.

Another reason for the film’s rejection by the authorities might be that China only allows 34 foreign films to be released in movie theaters each year.

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