By RONG REN
AUSTIN (China Daily Show) — “I got this!” called out US President Barack Obama, as China’s Vice-President Xi Jinping pumped gasoline into a red Subaru 4×4, his face expressionless as ever.
Dressed in blue denim shirtsleeves, aviator sunglasses and a brand-new cowboy hat, Xi said nothing as the 50-year-old Obama jogged across the forecourt to pay.
“It’s all about sharing the wealth,” explained the Democrat President a few minutes later, as Xi took a bathroom break.
Instead of their usual respective visits to Camp David and Beidahe, both world leaders agreed their holiday this year would take the form of a joint road trip. No wives, no security detail – just two global chiefs on the highway, trying to settle their political differences.
“Like the US, I’m paying my way,” said Obama, mopping his brow in the mid-afternoon Texan heat. “We’re both splitting the costs for the trip equally. Xi paid for the jeep, and I said I’d get… oh, for crying out loud.” The President glanced back anxiously as the cashier’s till rang.
“No duck neck,” announced Xi, emerging from the roadside shop – in his hand shopping bags, filled with Oreos, Gatorade, Coke Zero, Pringles and Slim Jims for the drive ahead.
“You didn’t have to,” murmured Obama.
“I know,” came the shy reply.
The impromptu exchange was a rare glimpse into this most unorthodox of diplomatic journeys: the national media have been asked to leave the pair for the most part alone as they work out their differences, and even photography is forbidden.
Xi is China’s heir apparent after President Hu Jintao steps down this year, while no one takes seriously the prospect of any Republican candidate beating Obama in November. A bonding exercise would seem the natural solution to the two country’s differences. Nevertheless, the White House has been aggressive to scotch any rumors relating to one of the dates of the trip – February 14, or Valentine’s Day.
“They’re just friends,” said a spokesman. “Obama is a red-blooded, all-American, and happily married man. And Xi is – well, he’s biologically male.”
“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Xi later admitted with a coy smile. Even so, the pair occasionally chide each other like an old married couple. “I’ve been sorting out all the music; Xi doesn’t even have an iPod!” Obama joked at one point. “You can’t put a price on a decent playlist.”
Their route is said to take the unlikely duo from Texas through Arizona and Nevada, and eventually ending in an anticipated blowout in Las Vegas.
“I am keen to see the Strip,” said Xi politely. “To me, the Las Vegas experience is a ship of fools in the desert, draining cash from the hard-working cowboys – this is the American Dream, is it not?”
Perhaps. And what is the Chinese Dream?
Xi thought for a minute. “To sleep,” he answered with a cryptic wink before Obama gave a sudden, impatient honk from the driver’s seat, where the country classic ‘9 to 5’ could be heard loudly playing. Seconds later, the vehicle had swept off into the desert horizon, leaving behind only dust — and unanswered questions.
Will the two finally see eye-to-eye on human rights? What about human nature? And does Xi Jinping really like Dolly Parton?
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