Michelle Obama meets with stu­dents in Bei­jing

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO SHENGNAN and LI XIAOKUN in Bei­jing and CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton

On Fri­day morn­ing, US first lady Michelle Obama, a Har­vard-ed­u­cated lawyer, vis­ited a high school in Bei­jing with the ac­com­pany of Peng Liyuan, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s wife.

Af­ter that, the two is to stroll in­side the For­bid­den City, eat Pek­ing duck and watch a per­for­mance to­gether.

Mrs Obama landed in Bei­jing on Thurs­day evening, start­ing her long-awaited trip to China with a big smile and a wave.

When Mrs Obama, in an el­e­gant color-blocked dress by Chi­nese-Amer­i­can de­signer Derek Lam, stepped out of the plane with her two teenage daugh­ters Malia and Sasha and her mother Mar­ian Robin­son, dozens of re­porters that had waited in the air­port for hours in­ces­santly clicked their cam­era shut­ters.

Though no­body from the del­e­ga­tion spoke to the me­dia, the first lady’s brief de­but spread quickly on Chi­nese me­dia and mi­cro blogs, where users dis­cussed what she would wear and eat, and how she will in­ter­act with Chi­nese first lady Peng Liyuan.

“It is an­other in­no­va­tion in the his­tory of Chi­nese diplo­macy” and helps both sides’ lead­ers strengthen their per­sonal re­la­tions, said Ruan Zongze, vice-pres­i­dent of the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

Ruan was re­fer­ring to the lat­est “cre­ative” laid-back meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and his US coun­ter­part, Barack Obama, at the Sun­ny­lands re­sort in Cal­i­for­nia last June, soon af­ter Xi as­sumed of­fice.

Peng, Xi’s wife, ac­com­pa­nied her hus­band on the Sun­ny­lands visit but did not meet Mrs. Obama, who was in Wash­ing­ton. Her ab­sence left some Chi­nese dis­ap­pointed and more ex­cited about the “make-up” meet­ing.

The Twit­ter ac­count Flotus, main­tained by the White House first lady’s of­fice which stands for First Lady of The United States, quickly posted the ar­rival photo.

“She looks stun­ning, as al­ways! Nice to also see the First Grand­mother!” re­sponded the ac­count Color­siz­zle. “You look won­der­ful and so do your beau­ti­ful girls!” said Dianeloves2.

“You will love it. It’s a very beau­ti­ful place. Oh, don’t for­get to go to the Great Wall,” said Efe­me­naa. “Make sure you try dif­fer­ent foods in Chengdu,” said Jin­gles66.

“The meet­ing of the two first ladies shows that China is more open and is get­ting more in­volved with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” Ruan said.

The US side also kept a high­pro­file tone about the first lady’s third solo trip abroad. The White House web­site ded­i­cated a spe­cial page for the visit and re­leased a de­tailed sched­ule of the week­long, three-city tour be­fore her ar­rival. Mrs Obama will post a daily travel blog, in­clud­ing videos and pho­tos, to share her ex­pe­ri­ence in China. She will also record video re­sponses and en­gage di­rectly with young people on so­cial me­dia.

Ear­lier this month, Mrs. Obama vis­ited the Wash­ing­ton Yu Ying Pub­lic Char­ter School — a Chi­nese im­mer­sion school — to get tips on her China visit from school­child­ren. She also en­cour­aged stu­dents to fol­low her trip.

Robert Kapp, a for­mer pres­i­dent of the US-China Busi­ness Coun­cil who now ad­vises US firms about China, wrote on the Chi­naFile blog run by New York-based Asia So­ci­ety that he is cer­tain that Mrs Obama “will con­vey di­rectly to Madame Peng and to the Chi­nese people a sin­cere mes­sage of mu­tual re­spect, shared hu­man­ity, sober aware­ness of un­fin­ished so­ci­etal tasks and global re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and gen­uine cel­e­bra­tion of their loved ones, start­ing with Pres­i­dents Xi and Obama’’.

The meet­ing of the two first ladies will come just days be­fore their hus­bands meet bi­lat­er­ally on the side­lines of the Third Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Sum­mit in The Hague of the Nether­lands next week, tack­ling some of the most ur­gent global cri­sis, such as the one un­fold­ing in Ukraine.

“I am cer­tain, with­out bom­bast or a bar­rage of cliches, the first lady in par­tic­u­lar will con­trib­ute to a more full-bod­ied Chi­nese un­der­stand­ing of our na­tion and our people,” said Kapp, who was also a his­to­rian of 20th century China.

It is like say­ing that ‘Not only do my hus­band and I cher­ish re­la­tions with China, our whole fam­ily all sup­port the re­la­tions.’” CHEN MINGMING FOR­MER CHI­NESE AM­BAS­SADOR TO NEW ZEALAND AND SWITZER­LAND

Chen Mingming, for­mer Chi­nese am­bas­sador to New Zealand and Switzer­land, said al­though Mrs. Obama said she would fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion and youth em­pow­er­ment, her Chi­nese trip should not be in­ter­preted as a per­sonal visit.

“It re­flects the im­por­tance Barack Obama at­taches to Wash­ing­ton’s re­la­tions with Bei­jing,” said Chen, re­fer­ring to her pre­vi­ous solo visit to African coun­tries on be­half of the US pres­i­dent.

Chen also noted that Mrs. Obama’s bring­ing her mother and two daugh­ters re­flects a smart char­ac­ter­is­tic of US diplo­macy.

“It is like say­ing that ‘Not only do my hus­band and I cher­ish re­la­tions with China, our whole fam­ily all sup­port the re­la­tions,’” Chen said, adding that the move can eas­ily trig­ger res­o­nance in fam­ily-ori­ented China and bring the lead­ers closer to the or­di­nary people of both coun­tries.

The Oba­mas will also tour the Great Wall, see the Ter­ra­cotta War­riors of Xi’an, cap­i­tal of Shaanxi prov­ince, and visit a panda re­serve in Chengdu, Sichuan prov­ince.

The two first ladies both de­liv­ered a video speech last De­cem­ber at the nam­ing cer­e­mony for the 100- day- old panda cub at the Smith­so­nian Na­tional Zoo in Wash­ing­ton.

“The col­or­ful episode in Chi­naUS diplo­macy will serve as a strong com­ple­ment to ex­changes of the two pres­i­dents and raise friendly emo­tions to­ward each other among peo­ples of the two na­tions,” said Ruan.

Per­sonal vis­its to for­eign coun­tries by US first ladies, which date back to the pres­i­dency of Franklin D. Roo­sevelt dur­ing World War II, have be­come an im­por­tant duty and re­spon­si­bil­ity for con­tem­po­rary first ladies.

US first ladies Hil­lary Clin­ton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama have made 37 for­eign trips with­out their hus­bands at their sides over the past 20 years.

Chi­nese ex­perts hailed the visit as “a new di­men­sion in the ar­chi­tec­ture of Sino-US re­la­tions” and said Michelle Obama’s ev­ery step and syl­la­ble along the tour will send shock­waves through the me­dia out­lets of both coun­tries. Con­tact the writ­ers at zhaosheng­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn and lixi-

LI XIAOKUN / CHINA DAILY

US first lady Michelle Obama vis­ited stu­dents at the Sec­ond High School at­tached to Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity Fri­day morn­ing with her daugh­ters, where they had a demon­stra­tion and hands-on les­son in Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy. The Oba­mas’ land­mark trip will fo­cus on the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion and strength­en­ing US-China ties through per­son-to-per­son con­tact.

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