Michelle Obama China Visit Is Billed As 'Gentle Diplomacy,' Is Nothing Of The Sort
This week, Mobama is staying true to her "Mom-in-Chief" motto: Michelle Obama has vowed to practice "gentle diplomacy," as it's been dubbed by the Chinese media, and avoid political chatter on her trip to China with her daughters and mother. But, despite the cordial facade, the meeting between Mobama and China's equivalent to First Lady – Peng Liyuan, the wife of China's Communist President Xi Jinping — is far more political than they're making it seem.
This is the first time the First Lady has made a solo trip to meet with her Chinese counterpart. The White House has labeled Michelle's trip a personal one, even banning reporters from traveling with her overseas. Michelle won't be giving any interviews while in China, either. When pressed for comment, the First Lady's office would only give off-the-record responses to Politico's Dylan Byers, he wrote.
Despite the tensions between Ukraine and Russia over Crimea, plus the pressure on the Chinese government to come up with answers for the families affected by missing Malaysian Airline Flight 307, Mobama has said she'll focus on education and youth initiatives. She's already managed to squeeze in a ping-pong game and a calligraphy lesson in the company of her host, Liyuan.
The overly secretive trip is probably directly related to the upcoming meeting between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Hague March 24-25. The two leaders, coming together at the Nuclear Security Summit, are expected to talk about trade agreements and human rights violations as well. China hasn't won any fans lately, what with the continued oppression of the Muslim minority Uyghurs and the death of female rights activist Cao Shunli.
Nonetheless, China seems more willing to open up to the world, and Chinese leaders probably realize that the mutual suspicion between China and the U.S. can only hurt that prospect. Pew Research indicates that only about 40 percent of people in the United States trust the Chinese government, and vice versa.
But before the Hague meeting, the two First Ladies will try to smooth the wrinkles in political relations.
Michelle Obama's trip is definitely a far cry from Hillary Clinton's visit in Beijing in 1995, during which she declared, "Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all."
But in all fairness, fiery politics have never been Michelle Obama's thing — at least publicly. “I’m not interested in politics, never have been,” she repeatedly told The View in 2012.
China's Communist Party-run People's Daily Online seems pretty psyched about the whole trip:
This visit by the first family of the US will certainly promote mutual understanding and friendly communication between the two peoples. 'First lady diplomacy' adds a brushstroke of bright color to the Sino-US relationship.