The two images were published side by side this week on the Twitter-like Chinese social media site Weibo.
But the posts were almost immediately “harmonized”, as censors appeared to take exception to the comparison between their president and a podgy bear who once roamed Sussex’s Ashdown Forest.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post said over-zealous censors had “nipped in the bud what could have been a positive PR campaign tailor-made for President Xi Jinping.”
The Communist Party’s internet censors often appear determined to delete even the slightest hint of government criticism from social media sites.
Earlier this month, authorities targeted a photo-shopped image - also on Weibo - of the famous Tiananmen Square photograph in which a lone protester faces down a line of tanks. The image - in which the tanks were replaced with giant rubber ducks - irritated authorities enough that not only did they remove the picture itself, they also blocked all internet searches related to the squeaky bath toys.
The Weibo Photoshopped image which caused irritated Chinese authorities to block all internet searches related to rubber ducks. (WEIBO)
But a recent Harvard study, which analysed millions of micro-blog posts, concluded that posts “with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders, and its policies are not more likely to be censored” than other posts.
In fact, the study found that the censors’ key aim was to curtail “collective action by silencing comments that represent, reinforce, or spur social mobilisation”.
There is no suggestion that Winnie the Pooh or Tigger had been plotting to stir up social unrest in China.