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White House gaffe names China's Xi Jinping as president of Taiwan

A press release put out by White House Spokesman Sean Spicer referred to Xi Jinping as president of Taiwan. Xi is in fact president of the "People's Republic of China."

A White House press release on Saturday inadvertently referred to the president of China as the president of Taiwan.

The press release was essentially a transcript of President Donald Trump's positive remarks about China's President Xi Jinping, after the two men met on the sidelines of the G20 summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

But the heading on the press release referred to Xi as the president of "The Republic of China." That, in fact, is the name of Taiwan, an island state that Beijing regards as a renegade province within its domain.

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China braces itself for Trump era

China's official name is the People's Republic of China. It is a one party Communist state that was established after Mao Zedong prevailed in China's civil war, which ended in 1949. His defeated opponents, the Chinese nationalists, fled to Taiwan and sought to maintain their claim over China, hence their official state name.

By contrast, Taiwan is a rambunctious multi-party democracy

This is not the first time Trump and the White House have ruffled Beijing's feathers, or committed a faux pas.

Congratulations from Taiwan

Shortly after the US election in November,  the president-elect accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, even though Washington broke off formal relations with Taiwan in 1979. But that has not stopped  the US from selling arms to the island state.

At the behest of Beijing, Washington adopted its One-China policy, officially recognizing China and Taiwan as one country, even though Taiwan governs itself.

Trump publicly toyed with the idea of abandoning Washington's One-China policy, suggesting it could be a bargaining chip as he sought to renegotiate the countries' bilateral trade agreement.

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China protests Trump call with Taiwan leader

But three weeks into his presidency Trump abandoned the idea; paving the way for a phone call with Xi and their subsequent meetings at his Mar-a-lago mansion in Florida in April and at the G-20 on Saturday, Bloomberg Business news reported.

But the relationship remains strained. Trump has been openly critical of Beijing's efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The two powers have also clashed over the South China Sea, where large areas are claimed by China.

Several other neighboring countries lay claim to the same waters.

Xi said after his Saturday meeting with Trump that Beijing would "like to work with the US," but last week he described the relationship as afflicted by "negative factors."

bik/jlw (AP, dpa)

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