HONG KONG • Chinese President Xi Jinping may no longer be referred to as “President Xi” in Washington if US lawmakers get their way, in a move certain to anger Beijing amid rising tensions between the two sides.
The Name the Enemy Act would require official US government communications to refer to the top leader of China according to his role as head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). For Mr Xi, the title would be CCP general secretary.
The Bill, introduced by Republican Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania on Aug 7, “(prohibits) the use of federal funds to refer to the head of state of the People’s Republic of China as ‘president’ on United States Government documents and communications, and for other purposes”.
Supporters of the Bill say the term “president” “offers unwarranted legitimacy to an unelected leader”, according to a South China Morning Post (SCMP) report on Friday.
While the Bill has yet to be passed, observers noted that some US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have started referring to Mr Xi as general secretary, instead of president.
Mr Xi is the general secretary of the CCP, chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission, President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission.
US President Donald Trump has apparently not referred to Mr Xi as general secretary so far.
Still, Mr Trump has made his tough positions on China a key element in the run-up to the Nov 3 presidential election. The US leader, who used to repeatedly call Mr Xi his “friend”, soured on the US-China relationship, which has seen a series of flash points, including China’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“China’s blatant dishonesty towards the international community cost lives, and the CCP and (the World Health Organisation) must be held accountable for their failures,” SCMP cited Mr Perry – who faces a close race for his Pennsylvania seat in November – as saying in May.
It is not known how much support Mr Perry will get from his colleagues over the Bill in the few months left to this congressional session, which will be focused more on efforts to battle Covid-19.