Mainland media outlets including Phoenix Net and China News Network have resorted to some of the more unsophisticated Jedi mind tricks to censor a TIME magazine cover featuring Taiwan’s presidential hopeful Tsai Ing-wen.

Tsai, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), graces the cover of the current edition of TIME alongside the words “She could lead the only Chinese democracy”. Covering the story, however, the website for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV opted to pixelate the politically sensitive title.

Very inconspicuous, this is. Yes, hmmm.

The picture has sparked heated public discussion on both sides of the Taiwan Strait – and not just because of the words “the only Chinese democracy”, which have been met with equal disdain both by pro-independence Taiwanese as well as CCP loyalists.

In a grim portent of things to comes, much of the discussion online has instead focused on Tsai’s appearance, rather than how she plans to govern Asia’s oldest republic and contend with increasingly stressful cross-straits relations.

Many web users have opined that the 59-year-old’s portrait, taken by renowned photographer Adam Ferguson, is deliberately unflattering – not to mention uncannily reminiscent of Star Wars character Yoda.

China News Network cropped out all text from the TIME cover, pairing Tsai’s face with an image of the 900-year-old Jedi Grand Master.

Do or do not become president. This is no try.

While the offending cover has not been censored on popular microblog platform Weibo, the official line from the country’s media is clear: China does not have democratic aspirations. It’s business as usual.

Photo: CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies

Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.