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China Won’t Release ‘Christopher Robin’ Because of Bizarre Winnie-the-Pooh Memes

Oh, bother.

Getty / Laura Sparham

China’s film authorities have blocked the release of Christopher Robin now that subversive images of Winnie the Pooh are being used to mock the country’s president Xi Jinping.

Christopher Robin is a family movie starring Ewan McGregor alongside a CGI Winnie The Pooh. Which, in China, is exactly the problem. Since last summer, Winnie The Pooh has become a symbol of resistance against the ruling Communist party and its leader Xi Jinping. Bloggers began posting images comparing the appearance of the honey-loving bear to Jinping, quickly prompting a ban on Pooh images across social media platforms in the country.

Then this past June, when Last Week Tonight host poked fun at Jinping for being sensitive about the comparison, Chinese authorities blocked HBO too.

Though it wasn’t until last summer that images of Winnie The Pooh were first blocked, the online comparisons of Jinping and Pooh go back as far as 2013, when a photo of the Chinese president walking with Barack Obama was posted alongside a picture of Pooh walking with the character Tigger.

A year later another photo comparing Jinping to Pooh made rounds on the internet, this time pairing an image with him and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe next a photo of Pooh and Eeyore.  

Global Risk Insights, a political analysis company, suggests the ban on images of the lazy bear of Hundred Acre Woods is because officials in Beijing see them as “a serious effort to undermine the dignity of the presidential office and Xi himself.”

Another reason for the Christopher Robin block may be purely a matter of business. As The Hollywood Reporter reports, China has an annual foreign film quota only showing a handful of movies from other countries a year and the Chinese market may be more interested in different films.

Christopher Robin is about the now-grown Christopher Robin from the classic book series by A.A. Milne who reconnects with his childhood with the help of his old friend Winnie the Pooh. The film had an opening weekend gross of $24.5 million after it premiered last Friday.