While the President is now off to Myanmar on the second leg of his tour through Asia, his last two days in China were anything but ordinary.
The colorful economic summit ended in a rare joint presser with Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping where they reached a historic agreement on climate change:
“I commend President Xi, his team and the Chinese government for the commitment they are making to slow, peak and then reverse the course of China’s carbon emissions” Obama said at the event.
During this same presser, Obama and Xi took only two questions, one from reporter Mark Landler of The New York Times and one from Chinese state run media. Landler asked about international press access in China, which didn’t bode well with Xi, who immediately tried to avoid the question. Obama on the other hand made a not so subtle facial grin in reaction to Xi avoiding the question:
While clearly annoyed, Xi eventually circled back to finish his remarks by saying the New York Times causes their own press access issues in China.
And just before departing for Myanmar, Obama was in a meeting with his advisers and Li Keqiang, the Premiere of China, where he exercised his mandarin Chinese. Saying “xiè xiè” which translates to “thank you.”
From the beginning, the summit was full of color and seemingly awkward moments. In what s being dubbed the largest international event in Beijing since the 2008 Summer Olympics, world leaders were greeted at the APEC Summit with fireworks, performances and a long lavish red carpet.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was seated to watch the Fireworks during the Monday night display, kindly offered to place a shawl over the shoulders of Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Chinese social media erupted: was Putin putting the moves on Xi Jinping’s wife? But there was no mention of coat-gate on CCTV or China’s state news agency.
As for Obama, who didn’t participate in riding a Red Flag limousine down the red carpet as other leaders did, emerged from his own government vehicle chewing what is reported to be Nicorette gum.
Many Chinese viewers found this offensive. Yin Hong, A professor of Journalism at Beijing’s Tsinghua University took to social media, as did many other Chinese, to criticize the President for being careless, “we made this meeting so luxurious, with singing and dancing, but see Obama, stepping out of his car chewing gum like an idler.”
Following the welcome ceremony, world leaders joined for the standard family photo, smile and wave!
They then traveled to “plant” trees near the conference center, where they entered an astro-turf mini forrest of eight-foot evergreens lined along a path. There was one tree available for each country in APEC, and each tree had a pile of dirt for world leaders to shovel onto their tree. The trees, as you can see however, were already planted:
Aside from coat-gate and gum-gate, Obama and Putin did eventually meet.
According to National Security Council spokeswoman, Bernadette Meehan, the two met “on three occasions throughout the day, for a total of approximately 15-20 minutes” where they discussed “Iran, Syria and Ukraine.”
And in the end, Obama told President Xi of China, “when the US and China are able to work together effectively, the whole world benefits,” adding that he wanted to take U.S. and China relationship to “a new level.”
The President’s time in Beijing was just one sliver of his tour through Asia. He is now in Burma and will continue on to Australia.