Biden’s Excellent Beijing Adventure: From diplomat to tourist on taxpayer dime

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his granddaughter Finnegan Biden shop at a bookstore in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his granddaughter Finnegan Biden shop at a bookstore in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)
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Call it Joe Biden’s excellent adventure in China.

The vice president ended his two-day diplomatic visit in Beijing Thursday, but not before taking his son and granddaughter on an impromptu shopping excursion and a stop for afternoon tea in the capital city, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

U.S. officials often make such stops during trips abroad in the belief that it fosters cultural engagement.

Mr. Biden’s motorcade stopped in an historic district of Beijing where he shopped in a bookstore with son Hunter and 15-year-old granddaughter Finnegan, who are accompanying the vice president on his weeklong tour of Asia. Mr. Biden purchased an ice cream bar for a reporter (who made a point of reimbursing the vice president) while security guards swarmed the small shop.

From there, the Bidens visited the bookstore, where the vice president picked up a gleaming white porcelain figurine of bunny ears and a bunny face with a thin black painted handlebar mustache. It wasn’t clear if he actually purchased the figurine.

Finally the vice president took his family members to the Liu Xian Guan Teahouse, which promotes itself as a classic Confucian-style teahouse and can be viewed at www.eatea.com. The shop owner said she was “deeply honored” by their visit gave the Bidens a detailed demonstration of how to prepare and serve tea formally.

The shop owner asked Mr. Biden if Finnegan was his daughter, and Mr. Biden laughed loudly, according to a pool reporter accompanying the vice president.

“Thank you!” Mr. Biden said. “No she’s not my daughter. She’s my granddaughter. But thank you!”

The Bidens were treated to “blue” tea (said by the shop owner to be dried in the moonlight and to be especially romantic) and “white” tea dried in sunlight.

“How do you know how much to put in?” Mr. Biden asked. The shop owner replied, “I’ve been doing this a long time.”

The Bidens’ excursion and tea tasting lasted about an hour. They later departed on Air Force Two for South Korea.

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