Putin and Obama: ‘Misbehaving’ in China

Trending on Sina Weibo today is the behaviour of American President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin during their official stay in Beijing for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this week. They both allegedly put their host, President Xi Jinping of China, in an awkward situation.

obama1<Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, his wife Peng Liyuan and President Barack Obama arrive for dinner at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing, November 10, 2014. (Reuters)

Obama’s visit to Beijing became somewhat cloudy when he declined the ride arranged for him by the Chinese government upon his arrival on November 10, in favor of a US-supplied vehicle.

But the fact that the president chewed gum throughout his visit sparked more online criticism – Sina even turned it into a news item. Netizens responded in several ways. Some took his gum-chewing as a sign of nervousness, others a sign of bad manners. One netizen wondered if Obama would also continue chewing gum if he were on an official visit to Singapore.

President Putin also sparked a storm of online criticism when he offered his shawl to first lady Peng Liyuan during a chilly evening in Beijing. The incident was broadcasted by CCTV but later censored, as the incident supposedly made Putin appear chivalrous and Chinese governmental staff discourteous. Some media sources even assert that President Putin, who was recently divorced, was flirting with the first lady.


11-putin-shawl-controversy.w1200.h630.2xPutin offering a shawl to Peng Liyuan, wife of Xi Jinping who is pictured on the left talking to Barack Obama (NYmag).

The incident has led to much ridicule amongst netizens, who make up their own texts to accompany the picture of the concerning moment. Many also humorously applaud Putin for being such a “gentleman”, providing pictures of Putin also giving a shawl to Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and many pictures of Putin feeding or cuddling animals, riding horse, and wearing sunglasses (pictured below). As one netizen mockingly says: “Putin is a ‘real man’ who will melt the heart of any schoolgirl.”

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