In China, Obama Chews Gum, Offends Locals

But also makes progress on expanding high-tech trade agreement
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2014 3:30 AM CST
Updated Nov 11, 2014 8:00 AM CST
Obama Chews Gum in China, Offends the Locals
US President Barack Obama looks upward at the the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit plenary session at the International Convention Center, Yanqi, on Nov. 11, 2014, in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)

When 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member states convened in Beijing last night, China rolled out more than the red carpet. Treated as the biggest international event in China's capital since the 2008 Olympics, pollution levels have been lowered (or at least manipulated), a cultural show and fireworks kicked off the main event, and locals were told to be on their best behavior. But now some are saying the most notable guest, President Obama, didn't get the memo: He not only refused to ride to the opening event in a Red Flag limousine parading down red-lit streets, he emerged from his US-supplied vehicle chewing gum; USA Today reports he's a known user of smoking-cessation gum Nicorette. Meanwhile, other happenings from the summit:

  • There was progress, Time notes, in the form of a US-China trade deal announced last night that will slash long-standing tariffs on many high-tech goods. (Among them, per Politico: 25% and 8% tariffs on semiconductors and some medical equipment, respectively.) The deal will broaden the 17-year-old Information Technology Agreement, which proponents say could open up $1 trillion in annual sales of IT products.
  • Meanwhile, the AP reports that Obama and Vladimir Putin "circled each other warily" on the sidelines, meeting privately three times today on sources of tension including Ukraine, Syria, and Iran's nuclear program.
  • But back to the gum-inspired outrage: "We made this meeting so luxurious, with singing and dancing, but see Obama stepping out of his car chewing gum like an idler," Yin Hong, a journalism professor in Beijing, wrote on microblogging service Sina Weibo. He didn't write this on Twitter because it, like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, is banned in China.
(Obama has riled up Beijing before; in 2010, he met with the Dalai Lama in spite of warnings from China.)

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