Obama’s Gift to the President of the People’s Republic of China

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta hosts a full honors arrival ceremony to welcome Vice President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China. (Image: via  U.S. Department of Defense  /  CC0 1.0)
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta hosts a full honors arrival ceremony to welcome Vice President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China. (Image: via U.S. Department of Defense / CC0 1.0)

On June 9, US President Barack Obama presented Xi Jinping, the president of the People’s Republic of China, with a bench made from Californian redwood as a personal gift on the last day of Xi’s visit to the United States. During a morning walk before their meeting, the two presidents stopped to sit on the bench outside Sunnylands Estate in California.

Inscribed into the bench was: “Presented to His Excellency Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, by Barack Obama, President of the United States, Sunnylands Annenberg Estate, June 7-8, 2013.” There was also an inscription written in Chinese: “Californian Redwood”.

The gift bench has become a hot topic on various websites and newspapers in Mainland China. The People’s Daily tweeted on its official micro-blog, describing the gift as a symbol of collaboration and communication between the two countries by saying: “The US finally admits that China is becoming its equal,” and “The two countries should sit on the same bench: be partners, not contenders.”

Many Chinese netizens, on the other hand, interpreted the bench differently: “China can sit steadily only with the help of the US.”. Others also said that the biggest difference between a bench and a chair is that a bench is not meant to be sat on alone; the bench conveys a message of sharing.

The two presidents talked about their individual experiences during their morning walk. Xi told Mr Obama about his experiences of working as a farmer in the countryside during the Great Cultural Revolution.

Xi shared how the revolution had affected him personally, as well as the whole country. Mr Obama mentioned his childhood experiences growing up in Hawaii, saying that those years had shaped his view of the US as a big influence on the Pacific.

president of the people's republic of china

Xi told Mr Obama about his experiences of working as a farmer in the countryside during the Great Cultural Revolution. Xi shared how the revolution had affected him personally, as well as the whole country. Pictured above: A rare photo taken during the Cultural Revolution. (Image: i a walsh via flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

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