Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama II, born August 4, 1961, is the 44th and current President of the United States, and the first black US president. He defeated Republican rival John McCain in the general election of 2008, and was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009. Obama was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate in October 2009. He was re-elected president in November 2012, defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney. 


Xi, Obama set a new benchmark in diplomacy

Xi and Obama's casual style exemplified by stroll - and a redwood seat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 June, 2013, 3:47am

Barack Obama sent off Xi Jinping with something not every world leader has: the huge wooden park bench on which they sat to chat.

"President Obama's gift to President Xi was a custom-designed park bench. The bench is inscribed on the front with the dates of this visit, and, in Mandarin, the fact that the bench is made of California redwood," the White House said.

Out on a stroll of the grounds of Sunnylands, where the leaders held their talks, Xi and Obama sat for a moment together on the bench.

The surprise gift triggered some discussions among Weibo users on the mainland.

"It shortens the distance between two hearts by sitting on the same bench," blogger Ping Zhongqi quipped. Blogger Mo Duqiu was impressed by the natural smiles on the men's faces. "This is such a great photo," he said.

Historically, California redwood is a valuable tree species. In 1972, when former president Richard Nixon's visited China, he gave several strains of sequoia trees as a gift.

The two leaders appear to have more in common than Obama had with former president Hu Jintao , who often appeared stiff and formal in meetings. Both men are in their 50s and share a love of sports: swimming and soccer on Xi's side, basketball and golf on Obama's. Both are married to glamorous, high-profile wives who have played a strong role in shaping their images.

Xi told Obama he swam at least one kilometre a day, adding: "Without exercise, we'd collapse."

The video clips of Xi and Obama taking a relaxing walk at the Sunnylands estate were widely circulated on Sina Weibo. Weibo users commented that it was the first time they had heard about Xi's prowess at swimming.

Xi also appeared to relish the more informal talks. An Obama administration official said he discussed at length growing up in the Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution and how the experience affected his perspective on China's development.

He also broke out a bottle of mao-tai, the famous Chinese liquor, to toast Obama during Friday's working dinner, according to an official.

When the two men sat down for dinner, they feasted on several dishes prepared by one of America's top chefs.

The White House said celebrity chef Bobby Flay prepared a menu that included lobster tamales, porterhouse steak and cherry pie.

Flay owns a number of restaurants around the country and stars in several cooking programmes on the Food Network.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters




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