On Sunday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) met separately in Houston with Taiwanese President President Tsai Ing-wen, despite admonitions from China's consulate. The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1979, formally subscribing to Beijing's bedrock "one China" policy, and President-elect Donald Trump's phone call with Tsai after his election already put China-U.S. relations on rocky footing.
Abbott's office said the governor and Tsai discussed energy, trade, and other topics of mutual economic interest, and that they exchanged gifts — Tsai gave Abbott a Taiwanese vase and he gave her a clock with the Texas state seal. It turns out that was a faux pas — not because it wasn't a lovely clock, but because, Taiwan News reports, "in Chinese culture the phrase 'giving a clock' (送鐘) is a homophone with 'attending a funeral,' and therefore symbolizes an untimely demise for the recipient." Abbott's office said Monday night that, according to Taiwan's economic and cultural office in Houston, Tsai took no offense at the gift, the Austin American-Statesman reports. China, on the other hand, is probably still irked.