‘Straight-up snub’: China rolled out red carpets for other G20 leaders, but not Obama

by WorldTribune Staff, September 4, 2016

China’s lack of a “red carpet” welcome to U.S. President Barack Obama when he arrived for the G20 summit was seen by some as a “deliberate snub.”

While other leaders arriving in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou got the full diplomatic red carpet treatment, Obama used a smaller, rarely-used exit at the rear end of Air Force One as he arrived on his final tour of Asia.

US President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at Hangzhou Xioshan International Airport on Sept. 3. /AFP
U.S. President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at Hangzhou Xioshan International Airport on Sept. 3. / AFP

China analyst Bill Bishop, whose Sinocism newsletter tracks the country’s political scene, agreed that Obama’s welcome looked suspiciously like a “deliberate snub”.

“It sure looks like a straight-up snub,” Bishop said. “This clearly plays very much into the [idea]: ‘Look, we can make the American president go out of the ass of the plane.’ ”

Jorge Guajardo, Mexico’s former ambassador to China, said he was convinced Obama’s treatment was part of a calculated snub.

“These things do not happen by mistake. Not with the Chinese,” Guajardo, who hosted presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón during his time in Beijing, told the Guardian.

“I’ve dealt with the Chinese for six 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 added: “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.”

The American president’s arrival also saw heated exchanges between U.S. and Chinese officials after U.S. reporters traveling with the president were told to move.

“This is our country! This is our airport!” shouted one Chinese official at a White House staffer.

“The reception that President Obama and his staff got when they arrived here (on Sept. 3) was bruising, even by Chinese standards,” the New York Times reported.

Obama blamed different approaches to media freedoms between the two countries for the tarmac incident.

“I wouldn’t over-crank the significance of it,” he said.

The South China Morning Post quoted a Chinese foreign ministry official as saying the U.S. decided to use its own stairs as the driver of a rolling staircase that is traditionally used did not speak English.

“It would do China no good in treating Obama rudely,” the official said.