Taiwanese rush to buy patches worn by air force pilots depicting a Formosan black bear beating Winnie the Pooh, depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping, as a defiant symbol of the island’s resistance to the games. of Chinese war

China began three days of military exercises in Taiwan on Saturday, a day after the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a brief visit to the United States, where she met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, despite warnings from Beijing.

Chinese censors have long focused on depictions of Winnie the Pooh, created by British author AA Milne, in internet memes comparing the fictional bear to China’s president.

Alec Hsu, who designed the patch, has been selling it in his shop since last year, but saw a surge in orders after Taiwan’s military news agency published a photo of the patch on a pilot’s arm on Saturday. He was inspecting a fighter plane.

“I wanted to increase the morale of our troops by designing this patch,” said Hsu, owner of Wings Fan Goods Shop.

Hsu said he ordered more patches to meet the increased demand. Clients have included military officers and civilians.

The patch features an angry Formosan black bear holding the Taiwan flag and punching Winnie the Pooh, with the slogan «Scramble!» – referring to what the island’s pilots have had to do more frequently over the past three years as China sends more aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

The endangered Formosan black bear is considered a symbol of Taiwanese identity. Previously, Taiwan was better known internationally as Formosa.

The iron-on patches worn by some of Taiwan's air force pilots are a defiant message to Xi, often lampooned for looking like Winnie the Pooh.
The patches show a Formosan black bear beating Winnie the Pooh, a character used to refer to Chinese President Xi Jinping.Sam Yeh / AFP – Getty Images

“Where can we get a patch like that? They will be best sellers guaranteed!” Taiwan’s de facto embassy in the United States wrote in a tweet on Monday.

Taiwan’s air force told Reuters that while it does not «particularly encourage» its members to wear the patch, which is not part of their uniform, it «will remain open» to anything that will boost morale.

China claims that Taiwan rules democratically as its own territory and has not ruled out taking the island by force. The Tsai government rejects China’s claims to sovereignty, saying only the people of Taiwan can decide their future.

While the Winnie the Pooh patch cannot be found on Chinese social media, Beijing has also been promoting videos and comments about its drills in Taiwan.

The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command, the Chinese unit that would be on the front lines of any military action against Taiwan, released a video on Monday showing scenes from the drill, set to upbeat music.

The video addressed a Taiwanese audience through the use of traditional Chinese characters, which are still used in Taiwan but no longer in mainland China.