As Vice President Joe Biden kicks off a four-day visit to China today, he's stressing the need for economic cooperation between the two countries and reassuring the largest foreign holder of Treasury securities that its investments are safe. The goodwill tour--launched in the wake of the debt ceiling debate and S&P's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating--has only just begun, but it's already produced its share of bizarre moments:
- Chinese Officials Tussle With Foreign Reporters: During a meeting between Biden and Chinese Vice President (and president-in-waiting) Xi Jingping--Chinese officials locked arms and began shoving foreign reporters out of the Eastern Hall of the Great Hall of the People only minutes into Biden's opening remarks, a show of force they repeated in Biden's next meeting with the chair of the National People's Congress. Why the aggressive behavior? Michael A. Memoli of Los Angeles Times, who "was in a shoving match with a larger Chinese official," says Biden's "famously loquacious style" may have irked Chinese officials. "A Chinese press aide said Biden was going on far too long for their liking," the paper explains. "But in fact, including the consecutive translation of his comments from English to Chinese, Biden spoke only two or three minutes longer than Xi had." The Reuters shot above shows the first bilateral meeting.
- Biden Takes in a Basketball Game: Shortly after arriving in Beijing on Wednesday evening, the vice president paid a surprise visit to a basketball game between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Shanxi Brave Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association (the Hoyas won). The move already has China watchers comparing Biden's "basketball diplomacy" to President Richard Nixon's "ping-pong diplomacy." In the picture below, Biden is seated to the right of the referee, next to Georgetown President John DeGioia.