In Brief

Christopher Robin ‘banned in China over Winnie the Pooh meme’

Chinese social media wags compared the cuddly bear to president-for-life Xi Jinping

Disney’s Winnie the Pooh-inspired fantasy Christopher Robin will not be released in China, with speculation that the ban is due to a popular Chinese social media meme comparing the cuddly bear to President Xi Jinping.

The live-action/CGI tale stars Ewan McGregor as the human protagonist of A. A. Milne’s series of children’s tales, who returns to Hundred Acre Wood as an adult and reconnects with familiar characters such as Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore.

Although no official reason has been given for Christopher Robin’s banishment from China, which operates a strict quota on foreign film, the ban comes on the heels of “several Pooh crackdowns”, says Sky News.

That’s because the “bear with very little brain” has been used to poke fun at all-powerful President Xi in memes spread by Chinese internet users.

The cuddly character has become an improbably subversive resistance symbol for citizens opposed to Xi, who in March this year was made president for life.

The joke began in 2013, Vox reports, when a photo of the rotund Xi walking alongside a comparatively lanky Barack Obama was circulated on Chinese social media giant Weibo alongside an image of Winnie and Tigger walking hand in hand.

The comparison took off, as other encounters with foreign leaders were given similar treatment:

Last summer, government censors blocked all images of Winnie from the site. Typing the bear’s Chinese name into Weibo’s content brings up an error message warning “content is illegal”, Sky News reports.

In March, the country’s Party-controlled legislature voted to remove term limits, paving the way for Xi to rule for life.

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