Donald Trump hailed his “wonderful relationship” with Xi Jinping during talks at the G20 – although his felicitations were undermined when the White House mistakenly referred to the Communist party chief as the president of Taiwan.
Trump and the Chinese president met for more than 90 minutes in Hamburg on Saturday afternoon with North Korea’s nuclear programme and trade dominating the agenda.
Trump struck a superficially friendly note, despite mounting tensions between the world’s top two economies. “It’s an honour to have you as a friend,” he told Xi according to a statement from the White House press secretary…
However, the US statement contained a critical error. Rather than referring to Xi by his correct title – president of the People’s Republic of China – it identified him as president of the Republic of China, the official name for Taiwan.
Taiwan’s democratically elected president is Tsai Ing-wen, a London School of Economics graduate who is both the most powerful woman in the Chinese-speaking world and one of Xi Jinping’s arch rivals.
China specialists immediately picked up on the blunder – as, too, would have Beijing. “What a bunch of amateurs,” tweeted Bill Bishop, the publisher of Sinocism, a newsletter about China’s economy and politics.
“It’s a pretty major faux pas,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies.