The White House misidentified the president of China as the president of Taiwan in its official transcript of remarks between the two leaders ahead of their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Xi Jinping, president of the People's Republic of China, was identified in the transcript given to reporters as "President Xi of the Republic of China." Except "Republic of China" actually refers to Taiwan, a de facto independent island nation that its huge mainland neighbor insists is merely a rogue province.
— Peter Martin (@PeterMartin_PCM) July 8, 2017
While it's possible people in Taiwan might giggle over the gaffe, it probably won't help ease the tense relationship between the two powers. US President Donald Trump, after accusing China of stealing jobs and manipulating its currency throughout his presidential campaign last year, publicly said he might reconsider the "One China" policy, in which the US agrees to abide by China's stance on Taiwan. He even called Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen after winning his election, in a huge break from typical US policy.
And while Trump has recently been much more conciliatory toward China, he has been expressing frustration via Twitter at Beijing's failure — purposeful or not — to rein in North Korea's missile program.
Botching the name of one of the most economically powerful nations in the world is only the latest gaffe by Trump's White House, which is becoming know for protocol blunders abroad. The US delegation waited so long to book hotel rooms in Hamburg for the summit that there were simply none left, and they've been housed in German government facilities. And back in April Trump breezily commented that he'd love to meet Pope Francis a few weeks later when in Italy for the G7 summit, apparently unaware that such audiences are typically requested months in advance. The White House managed to get the president in to meet the pontiff, but not until after a Vatican spokesman pointed out that they were still, ahem, waiting for the official request.