Many observers have been accusing China’s leaders of deliberately snubbing Barack Obama during his arrival in the country on Saturday afternoon after the U.S. president was not given the standard red-carpet staircase used to leave Air Force One. Chinese official involved in the diplomatic arrangements for Obama’s arrival for the G20 meeting, however, revealed that this was not the case.
For other notable attendees of the high-profile meeting of powerful heads of state, Chinese authorities provided the red-carpet treatment for Russian president Vladimir Putin, South Korean president Park Geun-hye, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, British prime minister Theresa May and Brazilian president Michel Temer.
Even the journalists who accompanied President Obama from Hawaii said that Chinese security guards did not allow them to watch and observe how he exited from the plane’s small bare metal stairway, according to the Washington Post.
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A verbal altercation was also reported between U.S. and Chinese officials as Obama was making his way through the crowd on the tarmac. One Chinese official was caught on video shouting, “This is our country! This is our airport!” when his White House counterpart reportedly insisted on the U.S. setting the parameters for Obama’s plane exit.
Meanwhile, Putin’s grander red-carpet entrance was compared to Obama’s experience, fueling speculation that China purposefully snubbed the American President’s entrance.
According to a Chinese foreign ministry official, however, the decision to do away with the usual rolling red-carpet staircase was Washington’s decision, South China Morning Post reported.
“China provides a rolling staircase for every arriving state leader, but the U.S. delegation complained that the driver couldn’t speak English and couldn’t understand security instructions from the United States; so China proposed that we could assign a translator to sit beside the driver, but the U.S. side turned down the proposal and insisted that they didn’t need the staircase provided by the airport,” the official told SCMP.
“I wouldn’t overcrank the significance,” Obama later expressed that the incident should not be overblown, according to Reuters. “Part of it is we also have a much bigger footprint than a lot of other countries. We’ve got a lot of planes, a lot of helicopters, a lot of cars, a lot of guys. You know, if you’re a host country, sometimes it may feel a little bit much.”
The G20 Hangzhou summit held on 4–5 September in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang was the eleventh meeting of the Group of Twenty (G20) and the first ever G20 summit to be hosted in China.