Is President Xi Jinping afraid of Winnie the Pooh?

It looks a bit absurd but it seems that Chinese authorities denied the release of the movie with Winnie the Pooh. Does it tell us something about the Chinese regime? Read few comments.

Karl Gustafsson, Senior Research Fellow, Associate Professor of Political Science, Swedish Institute of International Affairs

It is difficult to know with any certainty what exactly the reasons are for the Chinese authorities denying the release of the Winnie the Pooh film. Nonetheless, it is possible to speculate and given the context there seems to be reason to believe that it tells us something about the Chinese regime.

China does only allow a limited number of foreign films to be screened at cinemas each year, so the Winnie the Pooh movie is not the only film to be denied release in China. However, the fact that online posts of Xi Jinping being compared to Winnie the Pooh have been censored suggests that there could be other reasons as well.

Some have suggested that it is a bit strange that Xi Jinping does not want to be associated with Winnie the Pooh. After all, Winnie the Pooh is typically seen as likable. At the same time, Winnie the Pooh is perhaps not the most intelligent character one could think of. I would assume that the censorship has to do with a belief that it is not advantageous to Xi Jinping to be compared with a character in an animated film. Some statements by representatives of the Chinese government suggest that it is seen as an insult to Xi’s dignity.

So what does this tell us about the Chinese regime and Xi Jinping? It might be taken to suggest that Xi is insecure despite being seen as one of the world’s most powerful people. Maybe it has to do with a belief that the leader of China has to be seen as a serious person and that being depicted differently might challenge Xi’s and the party’s legitimacy. Ridicule, even when it appears to be quite harmless, might be understood as a threat.

Adam Ni, Visiting Fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

Censoring Winnie the Pooh is simply absurd. It reflects the deep paranoia of the Chinese Communist Party with any expression of dissent. For the party, Winnie has become a symbol of the Chinese people’s disdain for Xi Jinping, the most authoritarian leader since Mao. Xi has rolled back civil liberties and spaces for public discussion since his rise to power in late 2012. Despite the tremendous rise in economic well-being, today’s China is less free than it has been for decades. The censoring of Winnie is symptomatic of a deeper trend towards tighter social and political control by China’s ruling elite over its people. The party-state sees enemy everywhere, including in the form of a cartoon bear.

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