Xi Dada

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan

Xi Jinping declined the opportunity to name Mark Zuckerberg’s forthcoming infant, and Shanghaiist reckons this is an insult:

At last week’s White House state dinner Xi was apparently unwilling to yield even an inch to the Facebook founder, declining his request to help find a Chinese name for his unborn baby.

Zuckerberg was seated at the head table with the Obamas, Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the state dinner which was attended by numerous figures from the US tech and media sectors.

According to Page Six, Zuckerberg spoke in Mandarin to Xi, asking him whether or not he would do him and his wife the honor of giving his child an honorary Chinese name.

Xi reportedly turned down the request to put forward a name for the Facebook founder’s unborn baby girl, saying that it would be “too much responsibility.” Presumably this must have tempered his ambition to come right out and ask for Facebook to be unblocked.

You’d have thought Xi would have at least been grateful for all the good publicity that Zuckerberg has given to the Chinese president’s book The Governance of China over the past couple of years.

We’re not sure whether or not the slight came as a surprise to Zuckerberg, especially as a few days earlier he seemed to have gotten on so well with the Chinese president at the US-China Internet Industry Forum.


Possibly it’s an American thing. From a European/Asian point of view, Xi appears to have done the right thing in as graceful a way as is possible. Indeed, asking a stranger to name your kid just because he’s a VIP and you liked his book comes across as kind of… well… ass-kissy, to be frank. (Though it does depend on how he actually phrased it. If he was just soliciting suggestions then that’s ok.)

Is this a normal thing in the US? Do you guys name your children this way? I’m genuinely curious.

Bonus fun round: Xi Dada’s own daughter is called Xi Mingze (习明泽). This a pretty political choice of name. In fact, it means something like “shining grace”, but the second character in particular has a great deal of history to it. In names it generally means something like “grace” (gift, benevolence, lustre etc.), but it also carries the alternative meanings “swamp” and “moist”. It didn’t used to be used very often in names in China, though it gets more of a workout in Japan, where it generally features in toppographical surnames, taking the “swamp” meaning. Akira Kurosawa (“bright black swamp”) and Kiichi Miyazawa (“one happiness swamp temple”) are just two examples. Coincidentally, however, it features in the names of both Mao Zedong () and Jiang Zemin (), giving it a solid association with political power that has since been seized upon by parents with ambitions for their children (in Chinese, babies are seldom named after people, but they can be given a single character from someone’s name as part of theirs in hommage).


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