Was an American soldier holding a "China flag" when President Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California unusual or a breach of protocol as implied by a tweet from Graham Allen? No, that's not true: A State Department spokesperson told Lead Stories that anytime a foreign leader is hosted in the United States, a member of the U.S. military holds the flag of their country. A U.S. military member has held the flag of the visiting country for previous presidents, including when Xi met with then-President Donald Trump in 2017, as video shows.
IS THAT AN AMERICAN SOLDIER HOLDING A CHINA FLAG?!?! Welcome to the United States of China!!! Absolutely disgusting!!
This is what the post looked like on X at the time of writing:
(Source: X screenshot taken on Tue Nov 21 21:48:18 2023 UTC)
Contrary to the implied message in the post that something was unusual about the scene, the tradition of a member of the U.S. military holding a foreign flag when the leader is visiting the United States on official business is longstanding.
"Having a U.S. soldier hold the flag of a visiting Chief of State or Head of Government is standard anytime we host a foreign leader," a State Department spokesperson told Lead Stories via email on November 21, 2023.
The Department of State website has a section titled, "Protocol Reference," which explains the tradition of displaying the flag of a foreign nation:
Q: What is the order of display for the U.S. flag and a flag of a foreign nation?
A: The two flags should be on separate staffs. Both flags should be the same size and flown at the same height. The U.S. flag is flown in the place of honor, which is to the viewer's left.
The five-second video posted on X is from a 40-second video from C-SPAN (archived here) that shows Xi arriving and meeting Biden in Woodside, California, on November 15, 2023. In the C-SPAN video the U.S. flag being held by a U.S. soldier is visible as is the Chinese flag being held by another soldier.
When Xi visited then-President Trump at his Florida residence Mar-A-Largo in 2017, a U.S. Marine was holding the Chinese flag upon his arrival, as seen in a video posted on YouTube (archived here) with a screenshot here:
(Source: YouTube screenshot taken on Tue Nov 21 21:55:14 2023 UTC)
A U.S. soldier was holding the Japanese flag in front of the West Wing of the White House on February 10, 2017, when Trump awaited the arrival of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as seen on the Getty Images website here (archived here).
On September 15, 2020, a U.S. troop was holding the flag of Bahrain when Trump welcomed United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to the White House, as a photograph from Getty Images shows here.
In a video posted on C-SPAN, a U.S. military member is holding the Australian flag outside the White House when Trump hosted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on September 20, 2019, which can be seen beginning at the 5:08 mark in the video.
Then-President Barack Obama welcomed then-Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain to the White House on March 14, 2012, and a U.S. military member is seen in a photo holding the British flag (archived here):
(Source: Obama White House archives screenshot taken on Tue Nov 21 21:52:28 2023 UTC)