BEIJING, Aug 19 (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden,
in China on a five-day charm mission, has worked hard with his
hosts to inject a little amity into the sometimes fractious
relationship, pulling punches but not his punch lines.
On Thursday, China's vice president and likely
leader-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, met Biden at the Great Hall of
"Good to see you again," Xi said. "I know you are very busy
with national affairs at home."
"You ARE national affairs," Biden told his counterpart from
the United States' largest creditor.
After on a stroll up the red carpet, Biden found a familiar
face during introductions to the Chinese delegation.
"Remember what I told you last time: if I had hair like
yours I'd be president," the 68-year-old VP with a well-groomed
but receding silver hairline said.
Pleasantries out of the way, Xi and Biden got down to real
issues -- shoring up prospects for Sino-American relations and
offering a dose of optimism about the U.S. economy.
Then it was time for lunch. But Biden was chicken when it
came to having guts.
Eating at a tiny Beijing restaurant renowned for its fried
liver and pig intestines, the vice president balked: "Noodles or
That meal for five, which included the new U.S. ambassador
to China Gary Locke and Biden's granddaughter, cost about 79
yuan ($12), and seemed to have struck the right chord with
By noon the next day tens of thousands had weighed in on the
lunch, many admiring the careful choreography to show how wisely
Americans spend their money. Lend away, China.
After a good meal, it was back to business at the Great
Hall, where he met with the Chairman of China's National
People's Congress, Wu Bangguo.
Biden apologised to members of the Chinese delegation who
had to listen to him speak "again and again and again."
He did not, however, apologise to the media.
Wu reminisced about the two leaders' last meeting in D.C.
"I remember I said to you back then that your office was
exquisite, but not very big," Wu said.
"Very diplomatic," Biden quipped.
More diplomatic, anyway, than the Georgetown Hoyas and
China's Bayi Military Rockets basketball teams, who ended a
"friendly" match that night across town, not with Biden-esque
jokes off the cuff, but with fisticuffs.
Best to leave the diplomacy to the professionals, who know
the value of a little self-deprecating office humour.
"I used to have an important job when I was chairman of the
Foreign Relations Committee," Biden told Wu. "I had a big
office, large staff. Then I became vice president."
Members of the press pool speculated that joke, at least,
may have been lost in translation.
(Reporting by Michael Martina, editing Miral Fahmy)
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