The airplane stairway flap at G-20 meeting in Hangzhou, China: Did Obama lose face because of Chinese insults, or did Xi Jingping humiliate himself?

When he arrived in Hangzhou, China for the G-20 summit, the Chinese authorities did not roll out the usual stairway for arriving dignitaries, as they did for other G-20 heads of state.  Barack Obama took a stairway lowered from the bottom of the plane instead.

See

Tom Phillips (Beijing), “Barack Obama ‘deliberately snubbed’ by Chinese in chaotic arrival at G20; The US president was denied the usual red carpet welcome and forced to ‘go out of the ass’ of Air Force One, observers say,” The Guardian, September 4, 2016 (3:27 p.m.).

Donald Trump quickly seized on this apparent insult and said he would have turned around and left.  He has a point, but the wiser course might have been to go to a neighboring country and wait for the Chinese to roll out the stairway.  This would have exposed Xi Jingping to great embarrassment among the other invited heads of state, richly deserved. Returning home would not have made sense because Obama has a number of meetings on the sidelines scheduled, and is also an important participant in the G-20 talks.

Had it been a bilateral summit, returning home might have been an option, as would have simply staying on the plane until they got the right stairway set up.

There is another angle to be considered, moreover.  It is the job of the White House staff to prepare a summit meeting, including the fine choreography of what happens when the president arrives and when he leaves.  Did the White House staff responsible for these details fail to work them out in advance, or did the Chinese break their agreement on the protocol to be followed?  Or did no one at the White House think about it?

On balance, it looks like a deliberate Chinese snub, though it is unclear at what level decisions were made.

The Trenchant Observer

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