A mistake in the heading of a transcript issued on Saturday from the White House press office has Chinese scholars (and mainstream media outlets) up in arms, claiming that the Trump administration is failing to promote good relations between China and the U.S.
The transcript mistakenly referred to Xi as president of the Republic of China, which is really the formal name for Taiwan. Xi is actually the leader of Communist China, which is officially named the People’s Republic of China.
The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 after the Republic of China forces fled to the island of Taiwan during a bloody civil war. The mistake was in the transcript’s header only, and the White House apologized for the error, saying it was a technical mistake.
Beijing accepted the apology, but others are not so forgiving. Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at China Renmin University, slammed the administration for incompetence.
“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,” Shi said. “It will only make the Chinese people look down upon the American government for it to make such a low-level mistake.”
Wang Dong, associate professor at the school of international studies at elite Peking University, acknowledged that the typo was not intentional, but thinks it’s indicative of an administration that’s not up to snuff when it comes to foreign relations.
“It shows the deficiency in the professionalism on the part of the White House staff in terms of diplomacy,” said Wang. “The mistake itself may not affect China-U.S. relations, but the White House should draw a lesson from it to improve its work flow. It’s a politically sensitive mistake that should not have occurred.”
The White House changed the transcript to read simply “President Xi of China.”
Relations between our two countries are currently on edge after Trump took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in December and questioned the current “one-China policy,” which means that Washington maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan. He also approved a $1.4 billion arms sale to the country, much to China’s dismay.
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