US lawmaker introduces Bill to ban use of title of 'president' for Xi Jinping

The move is certain to further anger Beijing amid rising US-China tensions. PHOTO: AFP

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 further anger Beijing amid rising tensions between the two sides.

The Name the Enemy Act would require official US government documents and communications to refer to the top leader of China according to his role as head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). So for Mr Xi, the title would be general secretary of the CCP.

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".

Critics say the term president "offers unwarranted legitimacy to an unelected leader", according to a report in the South China Morning Post on Friday (Aug 21).

The Bill singles out China, but does not target leaders in numerous other countries who are either unelected or are in power resulting from elections that are not considered free and fair, SCMP noted.

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 currently 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 lead-up to the Nov 3 presidential election, and is intent on keeping the pressure on.

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Beyond China's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and Beijing's tightening grip over Hong Kong, the relationship between the world's two largest economies has had a series of flash points including 5G technology, defence and trade, as Mr Trump, who used to repeatedly call Mr Xi his "friend", soured on the relationship.

"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.

Mr Perry, 58, recently faced backlash from the state's teacher's union when he argued that schools would be relatively safe to open up in the fall amid the coronavirus outbreak. He had said young children are not Covid-19 transmission vectors.

Ms Lauri Lebo, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, referred to him as "a politician who doesn't take science seriously", The York Dispatch reported.

As for the Bill Mr Perry introduced, it is not known how much support it will garner from his colleagues in the few months left to this congressional session, which will be focused more on efforts to battle Covid-19.

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