In the same vein as recent appearances of cartoon Xi Jinping, the first cartoon version of Li Keqiang has been popping up all over the internet, courtesy of gov.cn, the Chinese Central Government’s official web portal.
Cartoon Li came alongside a diagram that details how the premier presides over an State Council executive meeting. China Daily says that “this kind of cartoon image helps to break the sense of mystery surrounding China’s top leaders, which presents a more confident and open Chinese society.”
This recent trend of China’s top leaders appearing in cartoon form shows an official turnaround in regards to the party’s previous banning of depicting senior officials in cartoon form. Previously, depictions of CCP officials rank among the posts that are commonly censored by the government on Weibo. In June 2013, following Xi Jinping and Barack Obama’s rendezvous at Rancho Mirage in California, a post juxtaposing an image of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger strolling together with a nearly identical shot of the two world leaders was quickly “harmonized”, or taken down from Weibo.
In January 2012, political cartoon blog Cartoon Movement interviewed political cartoonist Crazy Crab, whose blog Hexie Farm has been banned in mainland China since October 2011. When asked why there aren’t many political cartoons in China, Crazy Crab replied:
“No, in fact, there are many political cartoonists working in China. Hundreds of political cartoons are published in newspapers every day. However, you can hardly find real political satire about the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) and the government from these cartoons. Cartoonists have to figure out what they can draw before drawing. Due to censorship and self-censorship, most political cartoons in China are boring and pointless.”
While these recent cartoon versions of Xi and Li probably don’t qualify as “real political satire”, they regardless represent a loosening—albeit a very slight loosening—of the central government’s policy towards depicting senior officials in cartoon form.
For more on cartoons that have been censored in China, check out Buzzfeed’s list of 14 online comics censored in China.