U.S. and Chinese officials got into a physical altercation Saturday as the heads of the two countries met in China to officially join the climate agreement, according to White House press accounts.
The “heated” exchange took place at the sight of this year’s G20 summit when a group of White House staffers and Secret Service were momentarily prevented from joining President Barack Obama as he greeted Chinese ambassadors, according to a pool press report.
“The president is arriving here in an hour,” a White House staffer said “in exasperation,” according to the press report.
The incident escalated when a Chinese official assisting the Americans began yelling and berating guards after they stopped the White House staffers.
The Chinese official nearly got into a fistfight with one of the security guards. “You don’t push people. No one gave you the right to touch or push anyone around,” he yelled in Chinese at the guards.
“Stop, please,” said a foreign ministry official in Chinese, adding, “There are reporters here.”
The skirmish bubbled over onto the airport tarmac, when a Chinese official blocked National Security Adviser Susan Rice from walking to Obama’s motorcade after crossing a media line. The same official later reportedly shouted at a White House press aide.
“This is our country. This is our airport,” the official said in English, according to another press report.
The altercations are perhaps a result of China’s desire to keep security on lockdown as the G20 summit opens on Sunday. Or perhaps, it is simply another example of the country’s history of bludgeoning media institutions. The Chinese government also has a pension of blocking their websites.
The incident came on the day Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ratified the global climate deal. The meeting, conducted in Hangzhou, China, ensures the two largest economies have officially moved forward on promises hashed out during December’s Paris agreement.
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