You may not have been aware, but the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been at war for years—with beloved children’s cartoons. Recently, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) censors have been wiping images and “gifs” of Winnie the Pooh from the Chinese webspace because some users have been comparing China’s President Xi Jinping’s appearance to that of the golden, honey-loving bear. In one comparison posted online, two pictures were placed next to each other: the left photo displayed former President Obama and Xi sauntering across a garden lawn, while the cartoon on the right imitated the poses of the two world leaders with Pooh as Xi and Obama as Tigger. Such depictions are not appreciated by the Communist Party, which views them as “damaging.”
Pooh Bear is not the only victim of politically-correct sanitation. Last spring, one of China’s largest video-sharing apps, Tik Tok, blocked almost 30,000 uploads featuring the British cartoon character Peppa Pig. Although the show has been used by parents to help teach their children English, Chinese state media has condemned the show as a “negative influence” on children. As of late, Peppa has become an icon for the “Sang” subculture. To members of this group, the animated piglet is a tongue-and-cheek way to represent the disappointment they feel when their high expectations for the future are shattered by discovering the meager opportunities that await them in their Communist home.
When a government or corporation has the authority to police web communications, abuse of that power always results. For the elites, the temptation to strike an undesirable post or discussion from collective consciousness proves too great. In the United States, we are blessed with the First Amendment, protecting our right to speak freely without government intrusion. However, with recent disputes regarding free speech on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the role of free public discourse is in jeopardy. We ought to learn the alarming lessons from China as we tackle our own discussions about internet freedom before it’s too late!