In a Saturday news release concerning a meeting in Germany between the Chinese leader and US President Donald Trump, the White House press office referred to Xi as the president of the Republic of China, the official name of Taiwan, flubbing the country's official title, the People's Republic of China.
Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, reported that when Beijing requested an explanation for the diplomatic faux pas, a Trump administration official referred to it as a technical error.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman later noted that the Trump White House apologized and corrected its error.
Foreign policy experts noted that the gaffe was particularly glaring in light of the diplomatic standoff between the two sovereign nations of Taiwan and China.
Following the 1945 establishment of the island nation as separate from mainland China, Beijing has referred to Taiwan as a Chinese territory, a claim consistently refuted by Taipei, a longtime US military and economic ally.
The error, note scholars and experts on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, is indicative of the Trump administration's inexperience, incompetence, and lack of concern for legacy relationships.
"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," observed Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at the Renmin University of China.
An associate professor at Peking University quoted in Chinese media also suggested that the mistake was not intentional, but merely revealed the ineffectiveness of the Trump White House, especially as many key positions remain vacant.