China announced this weekend that it is relinquishing its presidency’s two-term limit, effectively giving incumbent leader Xi Jinping more years to rule the country.
Government-run media outlets have so far kept the latest political development off its front pages and discussions online have been made virtually difficult.
— Owen Churchill (@owenschurchill) February 25, 2018
Some Chinese netizens, however, began using memes to express their opinion.
My favorite meme so far: “My mom said I must get married within Daddy Xi’s term in office. Now finally, I breathed a long sigh of relief.” pic.twitter.com/tlaKJ40JyG
— Guobin Yang (@Yangguobin) February 25, 2018
One popular meme is Winnie the Pooh, aka “Emperor Winnie” which plays on Xi’s resemblance to the beloved chubby character.
The meme’s origins actually date back to 2013 when images of Xi and United States President Barack Obama went viral for looking uncannily similar to animated buddies Tigger and Pooh.
While Pooh and related images have since been banned by censors on Chinese social media, the meme has resurfaced as a commentary to recent events.
The president without term limits also reminded some of China’s past emperors who were able to hold on to power until they die.
so I ran a pic of Xi Jinping through one of those “what will u look like in 20 yrs” apps pic.twitter.com/BZUC83mBYD
— Servant of the Studious Emperor (@HighlandPaddyHK) February 25, 2018
Some associated the recent political shift with the action of Qing dynasty general Yuan Shikai, who crowned himself an emperor of a new imperial dynasty he pushed for in 1915.
Censored words in weibo tonight : 登基 Ascended to Throne, 萬歲 Heil, 長生不老 Immortality, 袁世凱 Yuan Shikai whom attempt to restore monarchy as president of republic of china via https://t.co/3b0YFjTCVN pic.twitter.com/odUSMheUAr
— Galileo Cheng (@galileo44) February 25, 2018
Soon enough, the name “Yuan Shikai,” phrases like “long live the king” and “ascended to the throne,” were censored.
Various terms relating to the end of two-term limit Xi Jinping as of now no longer searchable on Weibo. pic.twitter.com/TZSoduSytL
— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) February 25, 2018
Netizens reportedly received “violations of laws and regulations” messages if they attempted to post or comment using them.
Incidentally, a massive spike in the number of people searching for the word “immigration” on Baidu was observed after the proposal was announced.
The authorities temporarily censored the letter “N” on social media in China as Chinese netizens were trying to calculate how long Xi Jinping might stay in power. pic.twitter.com/aeNuVo5VrI
— GreatFire.org (@GreatFireChina) February 27, 2018
While the amendment would still have to go through the National People’s Congress and be ratified in March, it is expected to pass without fail considering Xi Jinping’s influence over the ruling party.
The momentous proposal to lift the two-term limit on the Chinese president appears in the People’s Daily in right-hand corner of the 2nd page, lost in a list of other, mostly minor constitutional amendments. Not mentioned on front page. Assumption that people must simply accept. pic.twitter.com/jiA3q5yfbL
— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) February 26, 2018