The United States congress is pushing a bill that will strip Chinese president Xi Jingping of the title ‘president.’ The bill called “Name the Enemy Act,” is expected to, when passed, prohibit the federal government from using the title ‘president’ to address Xi Jingping. The bill said Xi will alternatively be referred to as “General Secretary.”
“The Federal Government may not obligate or expend any funds for the creation and dissemination of United States Government documents and communications that refer to the head of state of the People’s Republic of China as anything other than “General Secretary of the Communist Party”, or alternatively, as “General Secretary.””
The bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania on August 7, as a way of showing the US’ disapproval of China’s human rights violations including the abuse of Uighurs and Kazaks.
“The leadership of the People’s Republic of China has gone unchallenged in its perverse pursuits of human rights abuses across decades. Addressing the head of state of the People’s Republic of China as a ‘president’ grants the incorrect assumption that the people of the state, via democratic means, have readily legitimized the leader who rules them,” the bill reads.
The bill mentioned the use of Chinese armed forces to constantly infringe upon the sovereignty of surrounding countries, citing the April 2020 incident, where the Chinese maritime surveillance sank a Vietnamese fishing boat off the paracel Islands.
However, the move appears unlikely to take anything from Xi, who has acquired titles for himself since he came into power in 2012, though it bears authoritarian remarks.
The title ‘president’ has a democratic bearing that the Chinese government has failed to manifest, and the morality in referring to Xi, who has been at the top of authoritarian rule for years, as president has been called into question. Critics argue that addressing Xi as president allows him to project an image of openness and representative leadership to the international community which stands in stark opposition to who he truly is.
“China is not a democracy, and its citizens have no right to vote, assemble, or speak freely. Giving General Secretary Xi the unearned title of ‘president’ lends a veneer of democratic legitimacy to the CCP and Xi’s authoritarian rule,” said the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in a 2019 report to Congress.
But in China, Xi’s titles do not include the word ‘President’ while past Chinese leaders bore the official English title since 1980 when the South Asian country began opening up its economy, the head of the Chinese Communist Party has been differently addressed.
CNN did a history recap on the titles held by Xi in Chinese, and none represents exactly the English word ‘president.’ For instance, the three main titles Xi is known by are guojia zhuxi, meaning State Chairman; Zhongyang junwei zhuxi, commander-in-chief of the people’s Liberation Army (PLA); and zong shuji, the head of China’s ruling political party.
These titles are used to address Xi according to each occasion. But for English speakers and the state-run media, the title of number one man in China is president.
While the bill is going to make a strong statement about the United States’ view of Chinese authoritarian rule headed by Xi, addressing him as ‘General Secretary’ has a little weight to change the status quo.