President Barack Obama was called out over social media for offending several Chinese nationals by chewing gum during his visit to China for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing this past week.
A number of Chinese bloggers took to the web complaining that by chewing gum, the president of the free world looked like an “idler” and resembled a “careless rapper.”
“We made this meeting so luxurious, with singing and dancing, but see Obama, stepping out of his car chewing gum like an idler,” wrote Yin Hong, a professor of journalism at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, on China’s version of Twitter called Sina Weibo, according to USA Today.
Obama had earlier turned down a vehicle the Chinese had offered him for transportation, opting instead to drive in a limousine provided by the U.S. State Department.
One blogger wrote about Obama’s gum-chewing that, “This is in the American manner and humor, but in traditional Chinese culture, it is immature and not serious behavior!” Another suggested that Obama’s lax and amateurish behavior is the reason why he is disliked. “No wonder he doesn’t get any support!”
The president has been deemed tobacco free, by taking the step of kicking his cigarette habit. However, he does still engage in the occasional chewing of Nicorette gum to help satisfy any tobacco cravings he may have.
Amid all the ridicule that came Obama’s way, some bloggers were reportedly able to find the humor in the president’s gum-chewing. The Wall Street Journal wrote that one blogger said the gum-chewing made Obama look like a hip-hop artist, while another posited that “He must be nervous.”
Foreign policy was also brought into the mix as one Chinese national took to social media joking that “If Kim Jong-Un came, there would definitely not be any chewing of gum!” the Journal reported.
Obama had drawn criticism from the French over social media for chewing gum during a D-Day celebration in France in June of this year.
Chinese culture is strict when it comes to matters of public etiquette and display. The country took steps to curb chewing gum for its nationals ahead of the 2008 Olympics. They also imposed fines for anyone who spit in the streets. Chewing gum is banned in Singapore.