Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted a photo on Tuesday that may be a veiled mockery of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Pompeo tweeted the photo of his Golden Retriever puppy Mercer along with the caption “Mercer and all of her favorite toys!” on his personal Twitter account. In the photo along with the dog, however, is a stuffed Winnie the Pooh bear toy, a Disney character which Xi Jinping has been compared to and mocked over, prompting China to blacklist the character.
Mercer and all of her favorite toys! 🐶 pic.twitter.com/bGal0ui6E2
— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) July 15, 2020
The first known comparison of Xi with Pooh occurred in 2013 when an internet user posted a photo of Disney characters Pooh and Tigger walking together alongside a photo of Xi walking together with then-President Barack Obama.
— Jordan Ruimy (@mrRuimy) August 3, 2018
The photo went viral and became a target for Chinese censors. Other photos comparing Xi to Pooh have continued to pop up over the years, prompting China to begin censoring the images, from erasing the images entirely to blocking websites that included mocking content. China even added “Winnie the Pooh” to its internet blacklist, according to Global Risk Insights.
Xi was compared to Pooh again in 2014 when he met Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who was also compared to the donkey character Eeyore.
Xi Jinping shut down, banned, and is threatening international commerce and freedom of expression because he’s pissed over the “Winnie Xi Pooh” meme so yes, baseball stadiums get to boo the president. And you get to voice your opinion of it. American’s way is better. Defend it. pic.twitter.com/pHKNDYu8dn
— Andrew Donaldson (@four4thefire) October 28, 2019
In 2015, a photo of Xi standing through the sunroof of a car during a parade was compared alongside a Pooh car toy and reportedly became China’s most censored image of 2015, Global Risk Insights said.
In China, images of Winnie the Pooh have been banned because it became a meme to compare their authoritarian leader Xi Jinping to the cartoon bear.
To celebrate the sanctity and importance of the first amendment rights we Americans enjoy, I give you this very silly picture: pic.twitter.com/c49wZVIuzg
— Ben Meaders (@QuesoCaliente) August 7, 2018
In 2018, China blocked the HBO network’s website after John Oliver aired a parody of Xi Jinping and Pooh, the Guardian reported at the time. Oliver had poked fun at Xi’s sensitivity toward memes comparing him with Pooh.
Also in 2018, China banned the Disney film “Christopher Robin,” a live-action film featuring the Winnie the Pooh characters.
Pompeo’s tweet landed on the same day President Donald Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which sanctions Chinese individuals and entities for failing to recognize Hong Kong’s autonomy. Trump also signed an executive order which ended preferential treatment for Hong Kong, declaring it to be treated the same as mainland China.