China Censoring Winnie the Pooh in Online Chats

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February 26, 2018

Mentioning Winnie the Pooh on Sina Weibo could get people in trouble.

The Communist Party of China recently proposed a slight rewrite of its constitution to eliminate the wording that limits a president to two five-year terms. President Xi Jinping was elected in 2012 and began serving as president in March 2013. He is slated to begin his second term in office soon. Under the currently worded constitution, he would have to leave office in 2023.

Xi Jinping

Sina Weibo is China's equivalent of Twitter. And now, anyone using Sina Weibo and typing in words like "constitution rules" and "re-election" and even "Winnie the Pooh" receive a message saying that those words are not permitted. Xi has long been subject to derogatory comparisons to Winnie the Pooh, including side-by-side illustrations showing a slight similarity, at least in the minds of some people. Chinese Internet monitoring authorities also are not allowing any words that appear to criticize the proposal to eliminate term limits for the presidency.

Mao Zedong had been the first president but then did away with the position. Deng Xiaoping, as de facto leader of the country, restored the offices of president and vice-president in the current constitution, which was ratified in 1982. Since then, China has had four presidents:

  • Li Xiannian served one term, 1983–1988
  • Yang Shangkun served one term, 1988–1993
  • Hu Jintao served two terms, 1993–2013
  • Xi Jinping, 2013–

Since 1993 and the ascension of Hu Jintao, the same person has held the office of president, General Secretary of the Communist Party, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

The proposal also applies to the vice-president. The current vice-president is Li Yuanchao, who was elected along with Xi Jinping in 2013.

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