Years ago, when I happened to see a large stall with lots of Winnie-the-Pooh products at the market in a medium-sized Chinese city, I stopped and was amazed. Hadn’t I recently read in the Western media that Winnie the Pooh had been banned in China?
The story of the banned plush bears, T-shirts and other Winnie the Pooh paraphernalia has been in the media ever since. One of the first was the BBC, which “reported” in 2017 that Winnie the Pooh had been banned in China.
The toy bear that challenged the Chinese president caused a great stir in the Western media and earned their unreserved sympathy.
A year later, in 2018, the leading German news magazine Der Spiegel “reported” that the “Chinese ruler” was afraid of Winnie the Pooh and that the cute toy bear should therefore be banned. “Because the bear looks like the ruler“, it said without joking (see screenshot). And the fact that Chinese people with bear-like facial features could be a racist slur didn’t bother the otherwise woke, morality-spouting Spiegel. It made the lofty claim that “images of Winnie the Pooh have long been banned in China – precisely to prevent Xi memes that are critical of the system.”
Better late than never: a full five years later, in 2023, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), perhaps the most influential newspaper in the German-speaking part of Europe, also “reported” on the Chinese head of state’s uncanny fear of bears. The NZZ cited the Winnie the Pooh ban as watertight proof of China’s all-encompassing repression (see screenshot).
Winnie-the-Pooh was also banned elsewhere because the bear was accused of being an “inappropriate hermaphrodite” with “dubious sexuality”. As this happened in a Polish and not a Chinese city, it was not worthy of a headline in the Western media.
None of these “reporters” who wrote about the oppression of the bear and its fans in China were on the ground to clarify the matter. Ideological beliefs have the power to replace facts in the media like never before.
Fortunately, today there are social media that not only spread nonsense and untruths like the traditional media, but also truth that cannot be found in the latter.
Foreigners living in China, who consume Western media less for information – that would be a waste of time – and more for amusement, have dared to post Winnie the Pooh on social media, as seen at Chinese markets or on T-shirts worn by Chinese people.
For example, Lee Barrett, who is British and lives in Shenzhen, recently tweeted photos from a Chinese store selling Winnie the Pooh products (see screenshot).
Jerry Grey, who lives in Guandong Province, saw this electric motorcycle just a few hundred meters from his front door.
And Katrina, an American living in China, tweeted a picture of her Chinese neighbor’s car painted with Winnie the Pooh (see screenshot).
Of course, the journalists who claim that Winnie the Pooh is banned do not shop online in China like the Chinese do, e.g. on Taobao (picture), and therefore cannot know how convenient it is for the Chinese to have Winnie the Pooh delivered directly to their homes.
But didn’t they visit some shopping centers in China to at least see these vending machines?
The very least they can do is travel to Shanghai or Hong Kong’s Disney Land to actually spend time with Winnie.
Where is the repression, dear NZZ? Now a new article with the telling title is probably due: “In unpredictable China, you can’t even rely on repression anymore!“