Biden was in China to talk economics with the largest holder of American debt after the U.S. debt agreement and the country's credit rating downgrade. Reporters were scheduled to cover a welcome ceremony, and hear speeches by Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping and then Biden.
Biden was a few minutes into his speech when Chinese officials began directing reporters to the exits. Reporters insisted on staying, as their agreement had called for, but officials turned to bodily force to shove them out. According to the Los Angeles Times, Chinese officials locked arms and pushed forward in attempt to force reporters close to the exit. The source of the ruckus? A Chinese press aide said that Biden -- who is known for his long-winded speeches -- was going on too long. But according to Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Memoli, Biden only spoke two to three minutes longer than Xi had.
Memoli noted that the hostility was not a complete surprise to the press, who had been warned about the potential for aggressive conduct beforehand. But he wrote in a White House pool report, "A number of fellow reporters and staff said they hadn't seen quite that level of aggressive force attempting to remove us from such an event."
Chinese officials tried to force reporters out of the room again, during Biden's speech at a meeting with the chair of the National People's Congress, Wu Bangguo. There was no physical scuffle like during the first meeting though. Press access to a dinner was also canceled.
U.S. officials were reportedly unhappy with the treatment of the press, who they tried to keep in the first meeting. The disturbance happened just a hundred feet away from Biden, who finished his speech without interruption. It's unknown whether he was aware.
It's not the first time that U.S. reporters have encountered hostility while on foreign soil. In 2010, then-White House press secretary Robert Gibbs got into a heated shouting match with Indian officials who were trying to block certain White House reporters from covering a meeting.