52 Xi Jinping and Winnie the Pooh

Matthew Tao

Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh (also known as Pooh or Pooh bear) is a household name in the Western world; its many books, movies, toys, and adaptations, have taught children to love, forgive, be patient, and accept, among many other virtuous lessons. However, unbeknownst to many, the beloved cartoon bear is loathed by the Chinese government, and more specifically, by their leader Xi Jinping.

Chinese leadership’s hatred of Pooh stems from a diplomatic meeting in 2013. As Chinese President Xi Jinping deboarded the plane to greet former American President Barack Obama, many photographers clamored to get a snapshot of the historic moment.

However, the precedence of Xi and Obama’s meeting was not the focus of online viewers. Instead, many were quick to point out and ridicule the pictures taken: Xi and Obama’s pictures appeared to have an uncanny resemblance of a scene out of the Pooh book series:

It is, without a doubt, that Xi was Winnie the Pooh and Obama was Tigger. Despite the heavy ridicule Xi received from this photo, it took two more incidents for the Chinese government

First, following the same year, President Xi was captured in another photograph striking the same pose but this time with Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe. And again, Xi was mocked all over social media.

And finally, in 2015, a picture of Xi at a parade with a Winnie the Pooh decoration mocking him in the background was the final nail in the coffin. The photo went viral and was the most censored picture of the year.

Following this incident, the Chinese government declared its dissent of the infamous meme: they stated that the infamous likening undermined the authority and power of both the regime and the leader. However, most have speculated that it was mainly just Xi personally that do not like the comparison.

The Chinese ban on anything Pooh related obviously did not thwart its use outside of China; instead, it did the complete opposite. For example: amid the heightened tensions along the China–India border in 2020, tweets directed against China included some kind of hashtag referring to Pooh:

However, do not get it twisted: Western propaganda has put out the narrative that China is an obsessive communist regime and has wiped out anything Pooh related in China. Yet if we give a quick search on a popular Chinese search engine Baidu, Winnie the Pooh is well and alive:

To set the record straight, Winnie the Pooh as a derogatory reference to Chinese leader Xi is banned in China. Thus, the meme is commonly used by Chinese people outside of China (especially by young Chinese Americans) and everywhere else but in China.


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Xi Jinping and Winnie the Pooh Copyright © 2023 by Matthew Tao. All Rights Reserved.

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