Obama and Xi talk about jet lag at APEC reception

Ellen T. Tordesillas

Posted at Nov 23 2015 01:40 AM

Do powerful persons ever engage in small talk? And what do they talk about?

Former Vice President of Taiwan Vincent C. Siew shared with members of media some tidbits about the Leaders Meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation held in Manila last week.

Siew, who represented Taiwan in the 21-economy grouping, said that during the pre-dinner reception at the Mall of Asia Arena on the evening of Nov. 18 (Wednesday), U.S. President Obama joined him and China’s President Xi Jinping.

Xi and Obama were together two days earlier in Turkey for the G-20 meeting. G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.

Siew said Xi asked Obama if he came to Manila straight from Turkey and Obama replied that he went back to Washington before coming here.

“Don’t you have a jet lag?” Xi was quoted by Siew as having asked Obama.

Obama said a little and added that he will still be going to Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on Nov. 30. Xi would also be going to the Paris meeting.

From Manila, Obama went to Kuala Lumpur to attend the meeting of ASEAN and its dialogue partners.

Jet lag, also known as flight fatigue, is a temporary disorder that causes fatigue, insomnia, and other symptoms as a result of air travel across time zones. Online health sites say, “It is considered a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which is a disruption of the internal body clock.” Thus, if a person comes from Washington D.C. which has an 11-hour difference from Manila, his body would be in a sleep mode during the day.

Many noticed that during the APEC CEO summit in the morning of Nov. 18 held at Makati Shangrila where Obama took the unusual role of moderator/interviewer in the session with Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba, the online e-commerce, and Aisa Mijeno, the Filipina engineer who invented with her brother a lamp that is operated through chemical reaction fuelled by salt water, he looked tired and was not his usual sharp self.

Obama skipped the afternoon opening ceremonies at the PICC. US Trade Representative Michael Froman stood in for Obama in the afternoon meeting.

US Embassy spokesperson Kurt Hoyer said Obama had a different schedule that coincided with the welcome rites for the APEC leaders.

A fresh-looking Obama clad in barong attended the welcome dinner at the MOA arena. That’s where the small talk with Xi took place.

Siew said President Aquino opened the 23rd APEC summit with a prayer for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris and other places. In their Declaration the next day, the Leaders condemned terrorism and vowed not to be intimidated by it.

“Under the shadow cast by the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and against Russian aircraft over the Sinai, and elsewhere, we strongly condemn all acts, methods, and practices of terrorism in all their forms and manifestations. We will not allow terrorism to threaten the fundamental values that underpin our free and open economies. Economic growth, prosperity, and opportunity are among the most powerful tools to address the root causes of terrorism and radicalization. We stress the urgent need for increased international cooperation and solidarity in the fight against terrorism.”

Siew also said during the Leaders Retreat, Obama underscored the urgency of working together to manage the effects of climate change.

The Leaders Declaration devoted a substantial portion on Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities

A passionate advocate of dealing with Climate Change, Obama got ample support from Ma and Mijeno in APEC 2015 CEO summit.

Obama coaxed Ma, China's second richest man, into revealing to the audience his recent meeting with Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and the world’s richest, to join forces and invest in clean technology.

Ma said he is seriously concerned about the deteriorating situation of the environment. He said the lake where he nearly drowned when he was a boy is now dry. He has relatives and friends who have cancer.

“So without a healthy environment of this earth, no matter how much money you make, no matter how wonderful you are, you’re in a bad disaster,” Ma said.

Mijeno compared climate change to cancer. “At Stage One, it starts mutating. At Stage Two, you start feeling the symptoms. If you're self-aware, you go to the doctor and get treatment. If you're not aware, you take it for granted and you go to Stage Three. You start feeling the severe effects of the symptoms until finally, on Stage Four, you're noticing that your health starts declining. You get the best oncologist, pay the best hospital, but it's not working because everything is too late.”

Obama said, “You don't want to get to Stage Four.”

Mijeno agreed: “Yes, we don't want to get to Stage Four.”


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