Many Chinese citizens responded in a peculiar way to Feb. 25, 2018's announcement that the Chinese Communist Party may get rid of presidential term limits — by posting images of Winnie the Pooh on social media.
The pictures target Xi Jinping, who could now stay in power for decades and potentially paves the way to one-man rule that China has not seen since the days of Mao Zedong.
Also read: China's president is kind of a big deal
The joke is that Winnie the Pooh, the fictional, living teddy bear made by English author A. A. Milne, looks strikingly similar to Xi, supposedly because both of them look somewhat chubby. Critics of the Chinese leader often use the cartoon character in a derogatory way.
Could've expected this, but still pretty creative. First images of "king Winnie" surfacing on Weibo in response to Xi's potential indefinite rule: https://t.co/u9kL5OYGwq #XiJinping #kingwinnie pic.twitter.com/Bb6Dmy46xH
— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) February 25, 2018
The meme has been circulating around Chinese and Western social media since Xi became president in 2013, and has been out in full force since the CCP's announcement.
One image showed Pooh Bear hugging a large pot of honey, with the words "Wisdom of little bear Winnie the Pooh" in Chinese and "Find the thing you love and stick with it" in English. Another image showed a screenshot from an episode that shows the bear wearing a crown and other royal regalia.
China censors Winnie the Pooh
China banned Winnie the Pooh after Xi was compared to him 😂
Chinese depend on overt display of strength coz they know they're hollow within. pic.twitter.com/5Fp3JVoLSx
— Vinayak Jain (@vinayak_jain) August 22, 2017
The memes have provoked Chinese censors to clamp down on the circulation of the cartoon bear on social media apps like WeChat and Sina Weibo.
It appears the censors are going beyond just taking down pictures of Winnie the Pooh. Entire messages relating to the topic of Xi as a dictator or negative talk about him serving for life are being deleted minutes after being sent to friends or posted online.
"I've posted this before but it was censored within 13 minutes so I will post it again," one micro-blogger wrote according to What's on Weibo, an independent news site that reports on Chinese digital and social media. "I oppose to the amendment of the 'no more than two consecutive terms of office' as addressed in the third section of Article 79 of the Constitution."
Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin)
China Digital Times and Free Weibo have reported that some of the phrases that Chinese censors are scrutinizing include "I don't agree," "election term," "constitution rules," "Winnie the Pooh," and "proclaiming oneself an emperor."
"Migration" and "emigration" are also subject to heavy censorship.
State censorship is not new in China and censors have gone after Winnie the Pooh images in the past. The country has also notably gone to great lengths to make sure the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, in which hundreds of unarmed Chinese citizens were gunned down by the Peoples Liberation Army, are not discussed — either in person or on the internet.