The United States has apparently apologized to China following an embarrassing gaffe made over the weekend at the G20 summit with an official White House transcript referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping as “President Xi of the Republic of China.”
Of course, Xi is, in fact, the President of the People’s Republic of China, while the Republic of China is what the government of Taiwan calls itself — a rather important distinction that generally US officials have been well aware of in the past. Eventually, an official online version of the release was changed to simply refer to Xi as “President Xi of China.”
While no note was made about the correction in the transcript, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press conference in Beijing on Monday that the US had admitted to China that it had made a “technical error and had fixed it” after Beijing asked for an explanation.
The gaffe has been widely mocked, not just on Twitter, but also by Chinese professors and experts.
“It is basic knowledge for those working in diplomacy, yet this isolated incident shows how incompetent the White House staff are, how casual they are, and how poorly coordinated they are,” Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at China Renmin University, told NBC News. “It will only make the Chinese people look down upon the American government for it to make such a low-level mistake.
“It shows the deficiency in the professionalism on the part of the White House staff in terms of diplomacy,” another expert, Wang Dong, an associate professor in the school of international studies at Peking University, added. “The mistake itself may not affect China-U.S. relations, but the White House should draw a lesson from it to improve its work flow. It’s a politically sensitive mistake that should not have occurred.”
Of course, Donald Trump has been making politically sensitive mistakes in this realm before even taking office. Last December, he publicly toyed with the idea of using the United States’s acceptance of the “one China” policy as a bargaining chip to secure better trade deals with China. Soon after taking office, Trump backed down from these threats, agreeing to honor the “one China” policy without any strings attached. While he may have approved a $1.4 billion arms deal to Taiwan, he has yet to call Tsai Ing-wen on the phone.
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