Russia Insider;Originally appeared at Finance Twitter
But did Americans help orchestrate the incident?
Russia has proven to be too strong, and too smart, for the superpower America. So, the United States, under the leadership of lame duck President Barack Obama, chose to bully China instead. History has taught the Chinese a painful lesson that becoming an economic superpower without an equivalent strong military power is suicidal.
When China tried to claim almost the whole South China Sea for strategic reasons – economic, resources, defence, expansion or whatever you wish to call it – the U.S. suddenly found a good reason engaging the Chinese militarily. Besides war of words and provoking each other with military gadgets, both U.S. and China aren’t ready to go to war.
Presidents prior to Obama were normally respected by world leaders, or at least they had pretended to show respect to the most powerful man on planet Earth. But not Barack Obama, whom is being called all sort of nasty names but a strong leader by his own American people. Russian Vladimir Putin has been toying and ridiculing Barack Obama for as long as one can remember.
With about 137 days left until Obama leaves office on 20 January 2017, his trip to Hangzhou for the Group of 20 Summit in China is his final tour of Asia. Beijing should try extending the best hospitality to the POTUS, out of respect. Turns out, a war was already in full force on the tarmac – Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport – before Obama could exit of the magnificent Air Force One.
While authorities in the host city of Hangzhou had rolled out the red carpet for the arrival of Obama, the American president was forced to disembark Air Force One via a rarely used alternative exit on Saturday after no staircase was provided. Humiliated, China’s leaders have now been accused of delivering a calculated diplomatic snub to Barack Obama.
However, before Obama was made to wait while a decision is made about the staircase, a war of words was already happening on the tarmac at the airport. A quarrel erupted between a presidential aide and a Chinese official who demanded journalists travelling with Obama be prohibited from getting anywhere near him, obviously for security reason.
While the Chinese official might not want to take any security risk, or deliberately attempted to start chaos, it was seen as a breach of decorum observed whenever the American president arrives in a foreign locale. The Chinese authorities had even put up a blue rope under the wing of Air Force One, forcing the journalists to stand behind it, making photographing and recording tough.
At one point a White House official told the Chinese official that Obama was their president and the Air Force One was their plane and the press wasn’t moving, let alone taking silly instructions from the Chinese. In retaliation, the Chinese official replied angrily – “This is our country. This is our airport.”
When National Security Adviser Susan Rice and senior White House staffer Ben Rhodes tried to get closer to the president, lifting up a blue rope and walking under it, the Chinese official turned his fire on Rice in an attempt to block her progress. As they exchanged angry words her Secret Service agent stepped in to usher her past him.
While press access is generally granted wide freedom in the democracy United States, the same cannot be said about communist China where news media are controlled. The Chinese Communist Party insists that media must follow the party line and promote what it calls “positive propaganda.” As news spread about Obama’s humiliating treatment, Beijing points finger squarely on Washington.
Beijing said – “China provides a rolling staircase for every arriving state leader, but the US side complained that the driver doesn’t speak English and can’t understand security instructions from the United States; so China proposed that we could assign a translator to sit beside the driver, but the US side turned down the proposal and insisted that they didn’t need the staircase provided by the airport.”
Now, while China may not be on par with U.S. or Russia as far as military technology is concerned, Beijing is more than capable of hosting an event such as the Group of 20 Summit. It’s not like this is the first time the country has hosted an event where they need to coordinate multiple world leader arrivals at airport(s).
The question is, did the U.S. delegation deliberately made a mountain out of a molehill? As a host, Beijing has tried hard to ensure a flawless event by closing down shops, driving away local residents and banning all civil activities in and outside the venues. Heck, Hangzhou was so secured that it looked like a ghost town with not a single fly could breach in, let alone terrorists.
Unless the U.S. official had repetitively ignored the security protocol arranged by the Chinese, it’s hard to imagine how the fiasco on the airport tarmac could have happened. There’re accusations that the U.S. media wanted to paint a negative image on China by orchestrating the airport issue. After all, their preferred candidate Hillary Clinton is said to be presently in her hiding.
Jorge Guajardo, Mexico’s former ambassador to China, believes he has the answer – “These things do not happen by mistake. Not with the Chinese. I’ve dealt with the Chinese for 6 years. I’ve done these visits. I took Xi Jinping to Mexico. I received two Mexican presidents in China. I know exactly how these things get worked out. It’s down to the last detail in everything. It’s not a mistake. It’s not.”
Guajardo offered his theory – “It’s a snub. It’s a way of saying: ‘You know, you’re not that special to us.’ It’s part of the new Chinese arrogance. It’s part of stirring up Chinese nationalism. Its part of saying: ‘China stands up to the superpower.’ Its part of saying: ‘And by the way, you’re just someone else to us.’ It works very well with the local audience.”
Considering Beijing had hosted bigger events such as the Olympic Games without breaking a sweat, Bill Bishop, a China expert, agreed that Obama’s welcome was a deliberate screw up since the Chinese have been preparing for over 1-year for the G20. He thinks President Xi Jinping wanted to tell his 1-billion people – “Look, we can make the American president go out of the ass of the plane.”
Another message, other than Xi Jinping can toy around with Barack Obama the same way Vladimir Putin did, is that Beijing doesn’t give two hoots about press freedom, something which Obama had raised on his previous visits to China. Now that Obama is to leave White House, Beijing might be sending a naughty message – by harassing American press freedom.
When asked, President Obama offered a diplomatic reply, or rather a face-saving response, and suggested that his Chinese hosts might have found the size of the US delegation “a little overwhelming”. He said – “We’ve got a lot of planes, a lot of helicopters, a lot of cars and a lot of guys. If you are a host country, sometimes it may feel a little bit much.”
That doesn’t sound convincing as Susan Rice, the US national security adviser, admitted she had been surprised by the handling of the president’s arrival – “They did things that weren’t anticipated.” She’s obviously annoyed that the U.S. president had been forced to leave Air Force One through a door normally reserved for high-security trips to places such as Afghanistan.