Cheng-bin Wang, a scientist working in Prague, meant the name as a honor. After a colleague sent him specimens of beetles discovered on the Chinese island of Hainan, Wang identified them as a new species and had to give them a name. He chose to name them after Xi Jin-Ping, the president of China.
Scientists name newly discovered species after famous people all the time. Sometimes it’s meant as an honor; sometimes it’s a play to draw attention to their find. In this case, Wang intended the name—Rhyzodiastes (Temoana) xii—as a tribute to the president, “for his leadership making our motherland stronger and stronger,” he wrote, in the Zootaxa paper describing the beetle.
Chinese media censors didn’t see it that way, though. They’ve banned all mention of the bug on social media in China.
It’s not clear exactly what the problem with the name is, although some people have speculated that it has to do with the beetles’ feeding habits. The specimens that Wang examined were found in rotten wood and cow dung; they also eat slime. Eating rotten wood could be seen as a metaphor for Xi’s campaign to root out corruption…or it could be seen as a gross habit that shouldn’t be associated in any way with the president.
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