Chinese President Xi Jinping may have control over his country’s social media but there’s no saving him from the Philippines’ master trolls.
Filipinos critical of Xi, who arrived in Manila for a two-day state visit today, have been sharing their disapproval on social media in all sorts of creative ways.
Of course, trolling Xi wouldn’t be a “win” without memes featuring Winnie-the-Pooh. A bunch of Twitter users welcomed him with memes of the honey-loving cartoon bear.
“Welcome to the PHL … Mr. Chinese President Xi Jinping,” Twitter user @simplejped.
@TigerMudra gave a preview of Xi’s “welcome snack.”
@jellvm shared a gif showing Xi, er, Pooh’s true identity.
— Jell (@jellvm) November 20, 2018
Musician and activist Jim Paredes shared this perfect use of Photoshop.
— Jim (@Jimparedes) November 20, 2018
Others got even more creative and drew this caricature shared by @blrsrrccn showing Xi as Pooh and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as Piglet.
— ENGr BL #AcademicBreakNowSLU (@blrsrrccn) November 20, 2018
Some Filipino netizens, including Paredes, even went as far as changing their social media profile photos to Winnie-the-Pooh.
For those who aren’t in on the joke, Chinese people have used the cartoon character to mock their president ever since 2013. According to The Guardian, it all started with this side by side photo of Xi with then United States President Barack Obama and Pooh with his buddy Tigger.
The resemblance is uncanny.
The meme was such a hit that the Chinese government started taking them down. In August, China’s strict censors even banned the release of the Winnie-the-Pooh film Christopher Robin.
But Filipino critics’ creativity does not start and end with Winnie-the Pooh.
Satirical Twitter account Malacañang Events and Catering Services posted a “welcome” poster with a (not so) hidden message.
In it, Xi is told to “Fuck off our territory.”
The poster also calls Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte the “Philippine SAR (Special Administrative Region) Chief Executive.”
Welcome to the Philippines, [the real] President Xi Jinping! pic.twitter.com/5E0JuoioU3
— Malacañang Events and Catering Services (@MalacananEvents) November 20, 2018
This is a reference to that time Duterte joked about making the Philippines a province of China during an event attended by the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.
The two leaders were also compared to Star Wars‘ Darth Vader and Darth Sidious.
And the trolling did not end online. Critics of the Philippine and Chinese governments also protested IRL (in real life, you old fogey).
Activists assembled outside the Chinse consulate in Makati City this morning shouted “China, layas (leave)” ahead of Xi’s arrival.
— ABS-CBN News (@ABSCBNNews) November 20, 2018
Despite the Philippine government’s warming relations with China, most Filipinos still have a negative image of the superpower.
A September survey by social research institution Social Weather Stations (SWS) released today shows that China still has a “poor” (-16) trust rating.
Most Filipinos also think that it’s wrong for the Philippine government to ignore China’s steady building of structures and militarization of the disputed West Philippine Sea.
This longstanding conflict is arguably the most important issue between China and the Philippines, but many have criticized Duterte for not defending his country’s claims hard enough.
The Duterte administration, for the most part, has prioritized improving its relations with China instead of putting its foot down.
Duterte invited Xi to visit the Philippines twice before today’s visit, which marks the first time a Chinese president visited the Philippines in 13 years.
In contrast to people’s reception, the government went all out in welcoming Xi. Roads were closed and classes and work were suspended for his arrival.