Since assuming office in 2012, Xi Jinping has been a leader not only of a nation but also of many modern party super-commissions, leading foreign observers to argue that he is less of a president and more of an autocrat. A new bill in the US Congress seeks to exclude Xi from being referred to as ‘President’ like most Western governments. Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, owns several titles that have won him the nickname: “Chairman of Everything.”
Recently, Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania proposed the bill known as “Name the Enemy Act” to the House of Representatives on August 7. It will forbid the federal government from producing or disseminating any text that “refers to the Chinese leader as anything other than Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China or as Secretary-General,” stated in the law.
Why The US Denies Xi Jinping His Title As President
In its twisted hunt for human rights violations, the Leadership of China has been unchecked according to the bill. Calling the Leader of China’ President’ suggests an inappropriate assumption that the Chinese have readily endorsed their leader through democratic processes. Xi’s titles have been a source of debate and misunderstanding. The term “president” was adopted by China in the 1980s when they wanted to strengthen their economy and open up to the rest of the world.
In a 2019 report to Congress by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission: “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.”
If Xi Jinping is not Referred to as President, Then, Who is He?
In China, Xi is given three prominent titles. He is the Head of State, the Commander-in-Chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA); he is the president of the Central Military Commission; and as General Secretary of the CCP, he is the leader of the Chinese only significant political party.
These titles depend upon the context. Xi is referred to as the president in English-speaking government communities, but that was not always the norm. As a sign that China was tracking for a more democratic future, ready to join the World Trade Organization in the late 1990s, increased its use of the title ‘Chinese President.’
Today, China differs from Deng’s era. As a global giant, China has solidified its GDP from $150 billion in 1978 to $14 trillion in 2019, making it the second most robust economy globally. In 2016, Xi was dubbed “the core of the Communist Party of China,” consolidating his position over his fellow men and displaying his influence.
One year later, his name was officially written into the Constitution of the Communist Party as well as his political viewpoint, classified as the “Xi Jinping Thought.” No other Chinese leader was thus inscribed with their names in the party’s constitution. They made the most significant leap when the constitution was changed to remove presidential term limits in 2018, securing Xi as a lifelong president of China. The CPP explained the move as necessary to get Xi’s two other significant posts — political and military leaders — together with no term constraints.
Xi’s increasing influence and controversy have caused some journalists and analysts in policymaking and some in the West to demand that the English term “President” be discarded. In the 2019 report of Parliament, the US-China Committee of Review of the Economic and Security Strategy reported that it was referring to Xi with the term “General Secretary of the Communist Party of China”.
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A ‘Battle of Words’
Perry’s bill comes with the ongoing hitting of fresh falls between China and US relations. In the last few months, the countries have criticized themselves for the Covid-19 spread, and for a broader national security dispute, they have shut down a few embassies. Several Chinese tech companies have been attacked by the US authorities, seeking to block common TikTok and WeChat apps.
This rise in tensions was mirrored in the way top US official address Xi. In the last two months, Christopher Wray, FBI Director, William Barr, Robert O Brien, the National Security Advisor, and Mike Pompeo have identified Xi as General Secretary in their addresses and announcements. This is a sharp shift from the past White House tradition of referring to China’s leader as ‘President Xi.’ Leung, professor of Hong Kong University, said that the last attempt to alter Xi’s title formally is more of a political declaration than a linguistic change. Leung said stripping Xi of his presidential title was a “battle of words” — a way to weaken the CCP’s position.
“If a foreign country then tells China, ‘No, we will not use your official name,’ it just causes China to lose face, regardless of what the term means,” she added. “If that’s the term they choose and if you are denying or (refusing) to acknowledge it, I think that itself challenges the face of the country.”
The possibility of the proposal being approved remains unclear; while there are four other republican co-sponsors, just a few months remain for the Congress session. If the session expires in January and not officially signed, it will be rejected and re-introduced. According to Leung, adopting the title “Chairman” might help Xi accumulate even more power—this may turn him into the ‘Chairman of Everything’.
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