Biden an internet hit in China
Beijing - US Vice President Joe Biden's decision to eat cheap Beijing-style noodles for his first lunch on his current visit to China proved a hit with Chinese internet users on Friday.
A US embassy micro-blog post about Biden's lunch on Thursday at the traditional Yao Ji Stewed Liver restaurant "had China talking" after it was forwarded 6 400 times and attracted 3 000 comments in the first hour on a popular Sina.com website, the White House reported.
Sina had recorded 22 000 comments within 24 hours by Friday afternoon and said the post was forwarded more than 51 000 times.
The embassy said Biden and four companions ordered five bowls of fried soy-paste noodles, a Beijing speciality, plus steamed buns, cold side dishes and cola at a total cost of 79 yuan ($12).
When Biden paid the bill, he apologised to staff for inconveniencing them and asked them to keep the 21-yuan change from his 100-yuan note "as a tip in accordance with American custom".
New US Ambassador to China Gary Locke and his wife, Mona, plus Biden's daughter-in-law and granddaughter Naomi were his official guests, the embassy said, but photographs of the event appeared to show more than five members in his party.
Locke had already won popularity with Chinese internet users after a recent photograph was posted of him carrying a small backpack and buying coffee at a US airport. Commenters said similar-level Chinese officials normally asked assistants to carry their bags or buy their coffee.
One comment on Sina's popular Weibo micro-blog on Friday under the name Zheng Minzhu said Biden's lunch and Locke's appearance at the airport were both "a kind of performance art".
"They are meant to ridicule and laugh at Chinese officials taking people's hard-earned money and wasting it on their extravagant and licentious behaviour," Zheng said.
"The US embassy is very good at PR, at publicising the United States," Rui Chengang, a well-known television presenter, said on his own micro-blog. "This is worth learning from."
The official Xinhua news agency quoted one micro-blogger as saying Biden should be more concerned with safeguarding China's $1.17 trillion in US Treasury assets.
"There are 1.3 billion Chinese keeping an eye on this," the post said.
But another post said Biden and Locke "not only show to the Chinese public the austerity of high American officials but also aim at boosting confidence in the safety of Chinese assets: 'We Americans do not squander.'"
One comment also noted that Biden had not tried stewed liver, the signature dish from which the restaurant takes its name.
"Western stomachs don't do offal," the agency quoted the post as saying.