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Mon, Apr 17, 2023

China Condemns Winnie the Pooh Patch

Oh, Bother …

For as long as combat pilots have scrambled aloft, uniform patches have served as a means by which these aviators—stoics constrained by the disciplines and procedures integral to their profession—express symbolically ideals not fit for polite company—ideals born of war, patriotism, fraternity, and victory over the enemy.

From the Jolly Roger of the U.S. Navy’s famed 103rd Strike Fighter Squadron, to the machine-gun-toting blue-fox of the USAF’s 18th Aggressor Squadron, the business of adorning bloodlust in the raiments of civility has long been among the provinces of the military aviator.

In April 2023, Taiwan’s military news agency released photos of a Taiwanese military training exercise. Among the photos was a depiction of a young Taiwanese pilot conducting a pre-flight inspection of his aircraft. The left shoulder of the aviator’s flight-suit is clearly visible and emblazoned with an embroidered patch depicting a Formosan black bear delivering a savage right-uppercut to the jaw of a startled and anguished-looking Winnie the Pooh. Encircling the patch—the bright reds and yellows or which stand prominently against the drab olive backdrop of the Taiwanese pilot’s combat ensemble—is white text reading “We are open 24/7” and “Scramble!”

That Winnie the Pooh and Chinese president Xi Jinping are one in the same is unlikely. That they’re very closely related—after the fashion of fraternal twins—is eminently possible. Comparisons of the two are the stuff of memes dating back to 2013 when Xi was feted by ardent admirer Barack Obama. The joke was propagated throughout the Internet’s vastness—much as a particular Chinese virus would soon make its way across the globe. It was a good joke, the kind of joke imbued with incisiveness and veracity.

The Chinese communists, however, did not laugh. Nor did they giggle, nor even smirk. In point of fact, Beijing cracked viciously down on any and all depictions of Winnie the Pooh, going so far, even, as to ban a 2023 slasher film titled Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey—which portrays the honey-swilling, Christopher Robin-loving, red-crop-top-wearing, ursine simpleton as a real bear, predisposed to killing without remorse.

Prior to 1949, Taiwan was known as Formosa. The Formosan black bear is a popular symbol of the island nation, which ferociously asserts its independence in spite of China’s inclination to loudly and continuously voice its claims to Taiwan’s territory and saber-rattle by dint of military exercises in the Strait of Taiwan, the 84-nautical-mile-wide body of water by which the two potential belligerents are separated. The selfsame day the photo of the patch was made public, China was conducting large-scale naval operations around Taiwan. Beijing, the following day, declared it was “ready to fight.”

The Pooh-punching-patch was made, reportedly, by Wings Fan Goods Shop, a private company owned by Mr. Alex Hsu, who set forth: “I wanted to boost the morale of our troops through selling this patch.”

Mr. Hsu asserts that since the 09 April debut of the photo depicting his patch, he’s been hard-pressed to keep the item in stock, repeatedly selling out of the thing as Taiwanese citizens and soldiers hasten to declare defiance in the face of the mounting Chinese threat to their homeland.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office—Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington, D.C.—promoted the patch, tweeting: “Where can we get a patch like that! Guaranteed best sellers!”

Mr. Hsu’s bear-on-bear patch is far from the first heraldic disparagement of the Chinese communist regime. In September 2020, U.S. airmen took to sporting a patch depicting an MQ-9 Reaper superimposed over a red silhouette of China. An increasingly woke Pentagon, however, cracked down on the expression of American resolve, stating in a memo that it would actively remove “any visual representation, symbols, or language derogatory to any race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age or disability status,” from its heraldry.

Taiwan’s military leadership, contrariwise, took a position becoming an institution of war, stating that though it did not “particularly encourage” Taiwanese service members to wear the patch, it would “maintain an open attitude” towards its usage.

FMI: www.taiwan.gov.tw

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