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Question of the Day
Mrs. Obama’s schedule includes a speech to Chinese and American students at Peking University and visits to the cities of Xi‘an in the west and Chengdu in the southwest. On Friday, she is to spend the day with Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
She arrived Thursday, traveling with her mother and two daughters on the seven-day, three-city visit.
“I think this is a very good opportunity to improve the China-U.S. relations, as the first lady can represent the soft side of diplomacy,” said Wang Dong, a political scientist at Peking University’s School of International Studies.
“Michelle Obama herself has been accomplished in areas such as women’s rights, children issues and education, and I think members of the Chinese public are anticipating her visit with a positive attitude,” Wang said.
The first lady intends to avoid contentious issues such as human rights, trade and cybersecurity, according to White House officials preparing the trip.
They said she will use her personal stories to express American values. On Tuesday, she is to visit a high school in Chengdu.
“Her focus on people-to-people relations, her focus on education and youth empowerment is one that we believe will resonate in China,” Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told reporters ahead of the visit. “We also believe it’s a message that is really fundamentally in the interest of the United States.”
The first lady and her family also are to visit the imperial palace and Great Wall in Beijing. While in Xi‘an, she plans to visit ancient city walls and the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum. In Chendgu, she plans to visit a panda conservation center.
The trip provides an opportunity for President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping to cultivate a personal relationship through their wives following their meeting in Sunnylands in California last year, Wang said.
Peng, Xi’s wife, accompanied her husband on the Sunnylands visit but did not meet Mrs. Obama, who stayed in Washington. Her absence left some Chinese grumbling and the visit allows the first lady to make up for it.
The trip also gives Peng unusual prominence in a Chinese official culture that usually keeps leaders’ spouses in the background.
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