In Japan, Winnie the Pooh has joined protests against China's draconian zero Covid policy. Disney stores in Japan are now selling merchandise that would offend China's President, Xi Jinping.
What's so special about the merchandise? The merchandise includes T-shirts, mugs, sweatshirts, and a tote bag featuring our favourite Disney character Winnie the Pooh, clutching a piece of blank paper. In the products, Pooh has an expression more serious than usual.
The products are made through Disney's MADE programme, which is referred to as "D-MADE" in the product descriptions and allows customers to personalise their own Disney merchandise.
Why are people in China protesting? The rare protests in China began on November 29. People are fed up of the government's zero-Covid policy, which confined millions to their homes. Since the beginning of the protests, people in China have devised innovative ways to protest, in order to escape the country's extreme censorship, and have used everything from blank sheets to Alpacas.
However, the most common form of protest that was seen was people holding blank sheets of paper on the streets. The sheets are to showcase China's censorship. It was first used in Hong Kong when people were protesting against the national security law, after slogans and phrases associated with the protests were banned. Some also believe it was a reference to the deaths of 10 factory workers in Urumqi, Xinjiang in China at the end of November.
Winnie the Pooh, Xi Jingping's nemesis since 2013: The President of the world's second-largest economy, Xi Jinping, is intimidated by his resemblance to Winnie the Pooh and the character has been banned in China since 2018. That means no Pooh movies, TV series, or stuffed toys.
Pooh became a common nickname for Xi Jinping around 2013, when the Chinese president went to the United States for an official visit and met Barack Obama. Xi Jinping came back with people comparing him with Pooh, and Obama with the tiger from the series.
Next year, another meme took the internet by storm when Xi Jinping and the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were together.
Hidden #SOS message in this photo of #PengShaui: Panda is China's “national treasure”, or Guobao 國寶 in Chinese. Secret police is National Security, which sounds Guobao 國保 too. So she is probably saying: I am in the hands of secret police, Winnie the Pooh #XiJinping is behind pic.twitter.com/ofzUTnfsN2— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferzeng97) November 24, 2021
After Disney, Pooh T-shirts are also being sold on some other smaller websites in America and UK. However, the Pooh-with-blank-paper merchandise is only available in Japan's Disney stores, not in other countries including India.