Chinese officials rolled out a red carpet but failed to extend a staircase to Air Force One — leaving President Obama hanging and touching off a near fistfight.
Obama’s Saturday arrival at the airport in Hangzhou was a mess from the start.
As Obama’s staff scrambled to get airplane stairs in place, a Chinese official began screaming at White House press photographers after they took position to snap the President stepping off Air Force One.
A White House official immediately confronted her Chinese counterpart, saying the U.S. would set the rules for its leader.
It’s tradition to grant White House photogs the opportunity to take a photo of an American president arriving in a foreign country.
But the Chinese official wasn’t having it.
“This is our country! This is our airport!” the official yelled.
The drama was just beginning.
That same Chinese official tried to keep Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice from walking to his motorcade — prompting the Secret Service to intervene.
Later, several White House protocol officers were barred from entering a diplomatic compound ahead of Obama’s meetings.
The dispute escalated — and two Chinese officials had to be physically separated after nearly coming to blows.
One of the warring Chinese government staffers was trying to intervene on behalf of the Americans.
“Calm down please. Calm down,” a White House official pleaded, according to the Washington Post.
The skirmishes put a damper on the opening day of what will likely be President Obama’s final trip to Asia.
Obama headed to China for the G20 summit, which kicks off on Sunday.