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White House mistakenly calls Chinese president Xi Jinping as president of Taiwan

12 July 2017

Chinese President Xi met his United States counterpart Donald Trump after the closing ceremony of the G20 Hamburg Summit, holding talks on economic plans and the upcoming meeting between the countries' military officials.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China asked the United States for an explanation of the mistake, and the USA said it was a technical error.

The White House made the error in an official readout of a meeting between U.S. President Trump and Xi during the G20 summit in Hamburg last week. Tsai Ing-wen is the strongest woman politician in the region.

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One problem: the "Republic of China" refers to Taiwan. Chinese scholars said the error shows a lack of competence in the White House that is not conducive to healthy US-China relations. Though Trump defended the call at the time, he later told Xi he would honor the "one China" policy and not recognize Taiwan's status as a sovereign nation. And another White House statement called the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, "President Abe of Japan".

In December, Mr Trump, as president-elect, accepted a telephone call from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, which broke with decades of United States precedent and was considered a snub for Beijing.

That call, and the ensuing ambiguity on the issue by Trump - which generated concern that he was using the issue as a bargaining chip - angered Beijing because it fears contacts between Taiwan and leaders of other countries confers a degree of sovereignty on the island.

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During his meeting with Trump, Xi noted that the two sides are discussing a one-year cooperation plan, and that the 100-day economic cooperation action plan initiated after the meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Largo in April has made new progress.

Xi, striking a more sober note than Trump, said "there is a lot of work needed to be done" on the "sensitive issues [that] remain in the China-U.S. relationship".

Trump has come under fire for failing to fill thousands of slots in his administration, with his White House staff, in particular, being faulted for poor organizational skills.

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White House mistakenly calls Chinese president Xi Jinping as president of Taiwan