Goodbye, Winnie the Pooh, says Chinese Government Censors
You would think the cartoon character's happy demeanour would be welcomed by any viewer. The Chinese Government disagree.
Has anyone ever made fun of you? How did it make you feel? Were your feelings hurt? Did you lash out at the person that hurt you? Did you get violent, scream, or throw back unnecessary insults? Or did you simply take over the government and censor everything that might cast you in a negative light? If you're President Xi Jinping of China, you chose the latter. You've established yourself as an oligarchical strongman who despises criticism and seeks to squash it through the use of a bureaucratic system developed to protect those in power.
Let's take a look at how China and its government have censored the internet to stifle dissent and ebb criticism.
The history of Internet censorship by the Chinese government.
In an article produced by Torfox, a Stanford Project, the Great Firewall of China is described as a massive censorship program designed to protect the Chinese government from the influences of online platforms. Under the Presidency of Jiang Zemin, the internet first came to fruition in China in 1994. Though the government had a closed-door policy for foreign influences in decades previous, Alvin Toffler's 'third wave' theory convinced the President that China should open its doors to the internet due to the world moving into the Information Age. While China was happy to engage the Internet and its ability to drive commerce, those in power were wary of the social influence that comes with it. Deng Xinaoping said, "if you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in." The 'flies,' apparently, are the education and freedom given to the public.
Why does the Chinese government censor the Internet?
According to the Washington Post, China's Internet Czar, Lu Wei, says the country is doing its best to strike a balance between 'freedom and order' as well as 'openness and autonomy.' In reality, China uses their Great Firewall as a weapon of control. It's a pervasive means of surveillance, and it decides winners and losers in the game of commerce. Those who are in lockstep with the Chinese government tend to win, those who dissent, often lose.
Chinese censorship of the Internet is done with the use of thousands of 'censors.' The sensors are people who mine the internet looking for posts and content that would spur action amongst its citizens or denigrates its government in a significant way.
Specifically, the censors will target content that discusses issues that run against the Communist Party. In times of critical governmental conferences, the censors will target phrases that oppose the government's narrative. Likewise, any content that would move a citizen from their chair to the street is rapidly dissolved to maintain Communist control of the Chinese people.
What types of content are censored?
While the Chinese government censors all types of information on the internet, there are a few key players and platforms that continuously have a watchful eye on them. For example, popular social media commenters and disseminators are as often censored as they are jailed. Their open stances against the Chinese government are considered grave threats to the power structure in China. As a result, these people try to hide on the internet and avoid posting on open forums.
Furthermore, movies and TV shows that may impact social discussions or private action are routinely removed from citizen viewership. Documentaries are often hit hardest, and quickly fall into obscurity as Chinese censors place them behind the Great Firewall.
It might seem a monumental task to censor the entire Internet, but the Chinese government has a trick up its sleeve. It's called 'self-censorship.' The idea is that platforms and companies are responsible for the content that appears on their websites. If there is something that should be censored, the businesses can be held liable for not editing it. Secondarily, with the threat of imprisonment for inciting action or ridiculing Government officials, people often censor themselves as an act of self-preservation.
As a caveat, it should be noted that lesser-known voices and general grumbling about the Communist Party are generally overlooked. The government under President Xi Jinping believes that it has little to fear from such tiny tremors occurring on the topography of the internet.
China's newest exile: Winnie the Pooh.
Not all of the censored material is particularly malicious; consider Winnie the Pooh. He's a boisterous, jolly yellow bear who aspires nothing more than to eat honey and take care of his friends. However, the Chinese government has recently banned him on the internet. Why? Apparently, President Xi Jinping gets his feelings hurt when people compare him to the fuzzy creature. Photographs and memes have popped up comparing him to Winnie. From the western perspective, it's great comedy. From the Chinese Government's perspective, it's blasphemy.
The timing of his ban is of particular note: it came ahead of a Communist Party conference discussing job openings within the Government.
Whether you're a mega-corporation like Facebook or a happy, plump bear with no culpability of your own, the Chinese censors do not take to the ridicule of the Chinese President lightly.
Though the memes comparing President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh have been around for several years, he's apparently had enough. From a full-throttle ban on Weibo to the removal of GIFs on WeChat, Winnie the Pooh has been wiped from the history of China.
With the demise of the amicable bear, surely no one will be more upset than his best friend, Eeyore.
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