The United States has apologized for mistakenly describing Chinese President Xi Jinping as the leader of Taiwan, China said Monday. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China asked the United States for an explanation of the mistake, and the US said it was a technical error. Washington apologized and corrected the error, Geng said at a daily news briefing. In a statement issued Saturday about a meeting in Germany between Xi and President Trump, the White House press office described Xi as president of the Republic of China, the formal name for Taiwan, instead of the People's Republic of China. The issue is particularly sensitive because Beijing insists that Taiwan is part of its territory, the AP notes.
Chinese scholars say the mix-up shows a lack of competence. "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," says Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at the Renmin University of China. The gaffe has gone largely unreported in China because the local media have no motivation to mock Trump, Shi says. Wang Dong, an associate professor in the school of international studies at Peking University, says he believes the error was not intentional but still reveals a lack of capacity in Trump's foreign policy team while key positions remain unfilled. (Read more US-China relations stories.)