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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

At APEC, Obama, Putin Find Themselves in Awkward Moments......

BEIJING—A fleeting exchange between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at a Beijing convention center on Monday offered a peek into the awkwardness that can prevail when world leaders are gathered in one place.
Following Chinese leader Xi Jinping into an ornate room, Mr. Putin turned his head in the direction of his U.S. counterpart and remarked, in English, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Mr. Obama coolly agreed without looking at Mr. Putin, ignoring a slap on the back from the Russian leader as the pair prepared to take their seats on either side of their Chinese host, according to reporters who witnessed the scene.
It was hardly the only chilly encounter to emerge as 19 leaders gathered for the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which Beijing was hosting for the first time.
Few moments at the summit were colder than a handshake between Mr. Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday. State broadcaster footage showed a stone-faced Mr. Xi turning to face the cameras before Mr. Abe’s interpreter was finished translating his greeting.
Mr. Xi looked “like a man meeting his ex-wife’s new boyfriend,” said John Delury, a professor at South Korea’s Yonsei University. A cartoon version of the encounter, depicting Mr. Xi as a put-upon Winnie the Pooh limply pressing the flesh with a hapless Eeyore, quickly went viral on Chinese social media.
President Obama reacts coolly to Mr. Putin’s pat on the back. ENLARGE
President Obama reacts coolly to Mr. Putin’s pat on the back. ALEXEY DRUGINYN/RIA NOVOSTI/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Awkward moments in diplomacy can occur even when ties between countries are friendly, as Mr. Putin demonstrated before Monday night’s fireworks display shown live on China’s state broadcaster. Seated next to Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan in an outdoor viewing area, the Russian leader draped a garment over her shoulders, only to watch her remove it and hand it to an attendant moments later.
“The charisma of China’s first lady can’t be resisted, and it conquers Putin,” went one of a number of responses online.
China’s leaders have gone out of their way to make the APEC event memorable. Factories were shut down to ensure blue skies, a brand-new exhibition center was built an hour’s drive north of the city, and famed Chinese film director Zhang Yimou was enlisted to choreograph a welcome ceremony replete with fireworks and ethnic-minority dancers.
The pageantry was impressive, even by Beijing standards and particularly for an event normally remembered chiefly for the traditional host-country outfits the attendees wear. But the summit also made it clear, sometimes glaringly so, how ill at ease many of the region’s leaders feel in each other’s company.

Photos: APEC Fashion Through the Years

A request to not wear ties led to the current trend

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. President Bill Clinton wave from the back of a boat as they leave from Pier 36 in Seattle on Nov. 20, 1993, for the APEC leaders’ meeting.
Leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group walk to a reception in Beijing wearing clothing typical of the host country, China, in this traditional ‘family’ photo on Monday. From left to right, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. China is hosting the meeting from Nov. 7 to 11.
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, second from left, wearing blue, and his wife, Ani, stand with other leaders of APEC and their respective spouses wearing clothes made from traditional Balinese ‘endek’ fabric, before a dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on Oct. 7, 2013. The photo signaled a return to the once-traditional APEC ‘family’ portrait. Leaders broke the tradition of dressing in local clothing for the 2010 photo in Yokohama, Japan.
Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and U.S. President Barack Obama speak, at center, as they and fellow leaders pose for the APEC ‘family’ portrait in Yokohama, Japan, on Nov. 13, 2010. Until the Yokohama meeting, APEC leaders had for years posed together wearing traditional clothing or clothing made in traditional fabric of the host country.
APEC leaders pose in Singapore following a dinner on Nov. 14, 2009, during the APEC summit. From left to right are the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah; Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, U.S. President Barack Obama, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and China’s President Hu Jintao.
APEC leaders pose in ponchos on Nov. 23, 2008, for the meeting hosted in Peru.
Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, center, flanked by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S. President George W. Bush, right, enjoys a laugh as Taiwan's representative Stan Shih and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet look on at the APEC meeting in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 8, 2007.
APEC leaders wave during a photo session at the summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Nov. 19, 2006.
South Korea’s President Roh Moo-hyun, center, poses with APEC leaders for the official photo in Busan, South Korea, on Nov. 19, 2005, wearing traditional Korean overcoats.
APEC leaders, wearing Chilean ponchos, wave on Nov. 21, 2004, in Santiago, Chile.
Leaders and representatives from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group pose at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct. 21, 2003.
On Oct. 27, 2002, APEC leaders attending the summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, pose in guayabera shirts.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, far left, and U.S. President George W. Bush, second from right, pose with other APEC group leaders in tunics after on Oct. 21, 2001 in Shanghai.
U.S. President Bill Clinton, second from right, and 20 other leaders attend the reading of the APEC Leaders Declaration at the Jerudong Polo Club during the summit in Bandar Seri Bagawan, Brunei, on Nov. 16, 2000.
APEC leaders pose on Nov. 25, 1999, in matching jackets at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
Russia’s Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Singapore’s Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, Taiwan’s Chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development Chiang Pin Kung, Thailand Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai and U.S. Vice President Al Gore pose in Malaysian batik shirts at the conclusion of the APEC summit on Nov. 18, 1998, in Cyberjaya, Malaysia.
Wearing white, tieless shirts called<em> Barong Tagalog</em>, APEC leaders make a wave with their hands during a photo session before the start of the annual summit on Nov. 25, 1996, in the Philippines.
APEC leaders pose at the summit in Osaka, Japan, on Nov. 19, 1995. The tradition of less-formal attire, which led to the trend of wearing traditional clothing, began in 1993 in the U.S. on Blake Island, in Washington state—where the first APEC summit was held. Leaders were asked to not wear ties in a move intended to improve relationships among them.
The host, Indonesian President Suharto, third from left, poses with other APEC leaders at the summit in Indonesia on Nov. 15, 1994.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. President Bill Clinton wave from the back of a boat as they leave from Pier 36 in Seattle on Nov. 20, 1993, for the APEC leaders’ meeting.
Leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group walk to a reception in Beijing wearing clothing typical of the host country, China, in this traditional ‘family’ photo on Monday. From left to right, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. China is hosting the meeting from Nov. 7 to 11.
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Leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group walk to a reception in Beijing wearing clothing typical of the host country, China, in this traditional ‘family’ photo
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, second from left, wearing blue, and his wife, Ani, stand with other leaders of APEC and their respective spouses wearing clothes made from traditional Balinese ‘endek’ fabric, before a dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on Oct. 7, 2013. The photo signaled a return to the once-traditional APEC ‘family’ portrait. Leaders broke the tradition of dressing in local clothing for the 2010 photo in Yokohama, Japan. DITA ALANGKARA/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and U.S. President Barack Obama speak, at center, as they and fellow leaders pose for the APEC ‘family’ portrait in Yokohama, Japan, on Nov. 13, 2010. Until the Yokohama meeting, APEC leaders had for years posed together wearing traditional clothing or clothing made in traditional fabric of the host country. TIM SLOAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
APEC leaders pose in Singapore following a dinner on Nov. 14, 2009, during the APEC summit. From left to right are the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah; Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, U.S. President Barack Obama, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and China’s President Hu Jintao. SAUL LOEB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
APEC leaders pose in ponchos on Nov. 23, 2008, for the meeting hosted in Peru. LUIS ACOSTA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, center, flanked by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S. President George W. Bush, right, enjoys a laugh as Taiwan's representative Stan Shih and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet look on at the APEC meeting in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 8, 2007. JEWEL SAMAD/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
APEC leaders wave during a photo session at the summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Nov. 19, 2006. KENICHI MURAKAMI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
South Korea’s President Roh Moo-hyun, center, poses with APEC leaders for the official photo in Busan, South Korea, on Nov. 19, 2005, wearing traditional Korean overcoats. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
APEC leaders, wearing Chilean ponchos, wave on Nov. 21, 2004, in Santiago, Chile. OMAR TORRES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Leaders and representatives from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group pose at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct. 21, 2003. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
On Oct. 27, 2002, APEC leaders attending the summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, pose in guayabera shirts. SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES
Russian President Vladimir Putin, far left, and U.S. President George W. Bush, second from right, pose with other APEC group leaders in tunics after on Oct. 21, 2001 in Shanghai. STEPHEN JAFFE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
U.S. President Bill Clinton, second from right, and 20 other leaders attend the reading of the APEC Leaders Declaration at the Jerudong Polo Club during the summit in Bandar Seri Bagawan, Brunei, on Nov. 16, 2000. RICK BOWMER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
APEC leaders pose on Nov. 25, 1999, in matching jackets at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. WIN MCNAMEE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Russia’s Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Singapore’s Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, Taiwan’s Chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development Chiang Pin Kung, Thailand Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai and U.S. Vice President Al Gore pose in Malaysian batik shirts at the conclusion of the APEC summit on Nov. 18, 1998, in Cyberjaya, Malaysia.VINCENT THIAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Wearing white, tieless shirts called Barong Tagalog, APEC leaders make a wave with their hands during a photo session before the start of the annual summit on Nov. 25, 1996, in the Philippines. SHIZUO KAMBAYASHI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
APEC leaders pose at the summit in Osaka, Japan, on Nov. 19, 1995. The tradition of less-formal attire, which led to the trend of wearing traditional clothing, began in 1993 in the U.S. on Blake Island, in Washington state—where the first APEC summit was held. Leaders were asked to not wear ties in a move intended to improve relationships among them. KOJI SASAHARA/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The host, Indonesian President Suharto, third from left, poses with other APEC leaders at the summit in Indonesia on Nov. 15, 1994. TORU YAMANAKA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. President Bill Clinton wave from the back of a boat as they leave from Pier 36 in Seattle on Nov. 20, 1993, for the APEC leaders’ meeting. DOUG MILLS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Relations between Presidents Obama and Putin, never particularly warm, have grown only more frigid following events in Ukraine.
Philippines leader Benigno Aquino III has irritated by Mr. Xi by challenging China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea with a tiny navy patched together out of U.S. castoffs.
Mr. Abe, meanwhile, has angered both Mr. Xi and South Korean leader Park Geun-hye on a range of issues having to do with Japan’s wartime history and claims to islands that Beijing and Seoul also claim.
After his encounter with Mr. Abe, Mr. Xi looked similarly grim in a photo op with Mr. Aquino before Monday night’s welcome banquet. It came as the invited leaders paraded across a stage at the National Aquatics Center dressed in stylized Chinese tunics with standing collars that some commentators likened to the uniforms worn by characters in the 1990s TV show “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
By contrast, when Mr. Putin swaggered across the stage, Mr. Xi smiled and gestured at their identical purple tunics as if it were a coincidence they matched.
Mr. Abe and Ms. Park, meanwhile, didn’t schedule a formal meeting, though Chinese organizers sat them next to each other at Monday’s welcome banquet. The pair used the unplanned opportunity to discuss a “broad range of topics,” according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.
Analysts and former diplomats cautioned against reading too much into the stiff encounters, noting that such meetings are often scripted and calculated to appeal to audiences back home.
“Showmanship rules,” said Donald Keyser, a retired State Department official who prepared briefing books for Ronald Reagan ’s visit to China in 1984. “If there are not actually rehearsals, there will certainly be discussion of such things as body language, whether to smile or not, what kind of handshake to attempt.”
Mr. Keyser noted that the chill between Messrs. Xi and Abe, who met for less than 30 minutes following their handshake, appeared to have dissipated somewhat when they stood together before the cameras again on Tuesday.
Kerry Brown, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Sydney and a former British diplomat in Beijing, said part of the awkwardness in Beijing may have been the result of China’s approach to the handshake protocol, which tends to be “very mechanical.”
That’s not necessarily a bad thing when compared with the approach of British Prime Minister David Cameron , according to Mr. Brown. “He tends to cover female leaders with slobbering kisses,” he said. “So I guess we have to thank the Chinese leaders for saving us from that.”