A screaming Chinese official likely gave the White House staff attending the global G-20 economic summit with their boss, U.S. President Barack Obama, some uneasy moments on Saturday after landing in Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport, according to reports from media, but Secret Service members stepped in to intervene on behalf of Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes.
Frictions over other issues have increased, of course, and Rice has been one to point out problems in the U.S.-China relationship beyond economic stuff: China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, disputes the nation has with other regional powers like South Korea and Japan, and big criticisms over Chinese dissidents.
From the information carried in the post at Deutsche Welle, it appears that foreign reporters were standing underneath the wing of Air Force One, President Obama’s 747 plane, when they witnessed the Chinese official screaming at White House staff members. What the official yelled had Secret Service moving National Security advisor Rice and her deputy Rhodes out of the way of the agitated official, who spoke out at the White House member in English.
“This is our country. This is our airport.”
Also, according to those who heard and witnessed the scene in the eastern city of Hangzhou, the screaming Chinese official and Rice were separated by a Secret Service agent, and the whole scene unfolded out of sight from Obama, as well, per witnesses.
U.S. officials likely talked about it later, but before President Obama met with Chinese President Xi. From the report over at Fox News, the screaming Chinese official incident happened “within minutes” of Obama’s arrival on Air Force One. One reporter is quoted as thinking that the scene was “a bit of chaos” and the official from China “appeared furious,” perhaps upset about media getting too close to the arriving president.
The whole screaming incident is reported to have happened out of sight from President Obama, however, per the report at Reuters. Obama was able to greet other representatives before his motorcade pulled away later, with advisor Rice inside and away from the uneasy confrontation. But the report also mentions that the official and the incident likely evolved because the man thought Rice and Rhodes were media, and thus, as the Chinese are known to want to fully “control the media,” it could be explained as a misunderstanding.
This may not be the case, however, as Susan Rice has served for years in the Obama Administration, and her face is known worldwide due to her previous service as an ambassador for the U.S. at the United Nations. We already know, from previous reports in the Washington Post, that Rice was not our typical diplomat. Add to that the knowledge Rice dropped out of the running for secretary of state after the criticism leveled at her for the attack on the U.S. consulate outpost in Benghazi in 2012, mentioned over at NBC News, and it could be argued that the Chinese sense weakness in her.
So, it is more likely that the tension between the nations is rising and the incident at the airport was a targeted moment of aggression. Think about this prime moment on the world stage and the Chinese official who steps up to scream at Rice and one of Obama’s other White House staff members, Rhodes, who has previously revealed that he makes stuff up, as reported by a Free Beacon story.
And here is why it may be so. Rice did give a speech in 2015 on U.S.-China relations, and within that message, per the information on the White House website, Rice noted the problems of Chinese hacking, something which some American voters may be screaming about at home after the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Clinton report on Friday.
Rice made clear stealing intellectual property is an issue and hit at Chinese hacking.
“We want a business climate where intellectual property rights and trade secrets are respected, not stolen.”
The Obama advisor added more to that in her speech, however.
“In his meetings with President Xi, President Obama has repeatedly made plain that state-sponsored, cyber-enabled economic espionage must stop. This isn’t a mild irritation. It is an economic and national security concern to the United States. It puts enormous strain on our bilateral relationship, and it is a critical factor in determining the future trajectory of U.S.-China ties.”
So last year about this time in September, Rice was very clear with her assertions to China, and likely this increased the friction in the meanwhile.
The Chinese official would not have begun screaming at the White House staff if he did not feel safe doing so.
It could be seen as a moment of opportunity, wherein the Chinese opted to send their own message to American officials. Perhaps they took exception to something else Rice said in that posting of her China-U.S. relations message last year.
“Cyber-enabled espionage that targets personal and corporate information for the economic gain of businesses undermines our long-term economic cooperation, and it needs to stop. So, we’ll continue to urge China to join us in promoting “
It is the G-20 economic summit of course, but any more screaming Chinese officials should be carefully avoided in this trip by President Obama’s White House staff and Secret Service.
[Photo by Ng Han Guan/AP Images]