Us Secretary of State Michael (Mike) Pompeo verbally attacks China almost every day, but one of his tweets today set tongues wagging, as many interpreted his dog tearing with joy a toy Winnie the Pooh was a caustic message to Beijing.
“Mercer and all of her favorite toys!” a canine-loving Pompeo tweeted from his personal account.
But the Chinese can hardly complain. Their social media users have frequently used the jolly bear as a meme for President Xi Jinping. They cannot dare mock their own president due to the lack of democracy and freedom of expression under the regime of the Communist Party of China (CCP).
Asked in an interview on 15 July whether this was “Winnie the Pooh-gate,” Pompeo dodged. “No, I imagine there were a series of stuffed animals, and they were equally distributed for Mercer’s benefit,” Pompeo told Iowa conservative radio host Simon Conway.
When told that the BBC had run a story musing about a deeper meaning, Pompeo laughed and said, “I hadn’t seen that.”
The comparisons between Xi and ‘Winnie The Pooh’ began in 2013, when he visited former US President Barack Obama. During the visit, an image of Xi and Obama walking together spurred comparisons to a rotund Winnie (Xi) and a lanky Tigger (Obama), another character from the cartoon series.
That was not all. In 2014, media again compared Xi to the character. It happened during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They compared Abe to the gloomy donkey character from the series Eeyore and Xi to the yellow bear.
China has since sought to scrub the meme from the social mediums accessible inside the country. Beijing in 2018 rejected the release of the Disney film Christopher Robin, which stars Winnie.
Pompeo has championed a hard line against China, criticizing the communist leadership for denying free expression, clamping down in Hong Kong and failing to stop the COVID pandemic.