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China and Taiwan mixed up in White House gaffe

A screenshot of the circular showing the heading "Remarks by President Trump before bilateral meeting with President Xi of the Republic of China"Image copyright White House
Image caption The statement was issued to reporters by the White House

A formal statement from the White House was issued with a very public error – mixing up China and Taiwan.

A press release following Donald Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit called him president “of the Republic of China”.

That is the official name of Taiwan. Mr Xi is, in fact, President of the People’s Republic of China.

Earlier, the White House had also labelled Shinzo Abe president of Japan. He is the prime minister.

The online version of the statement on China now simply refers to “President Xi of China”, and the Japan statement has also been corrected.

Social media users were quick to point out the error, which many feel should be obvious to government officials.

Image copyright Twitter

Chris Lu, a White House Cabinet Secretary under former President Obama, tweeted: “Ouch. White House just referred to Xi Jinping as leader of Republic of China, which is Taiwan,” appending the hashtag: “#AmateurHour”.

The distinction between two similar-sounding official names is important for two neighbours that have tense relations.

China regards Taiwan as breakaway province which will eventually rejoin the mainland.

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