BEIJING — Michelle Obama launched a six-day trip to China on Thursday aimed at smoothing Sino-U.S. relations with a carefully orchestrated exercise in soft diplomacy.
The first lady — joined by her mother, Marian Robinson, and two daughters, Malia and Sasha — was greeted on the tarmac at Beijing Capital International Airport by Chinese officials and newly installed Ambassador to China Max Baucus and his wife, Melodee Hanes. Also on hand were three busloads of mostly Chinese media, some of whom were there to scrutinize the Obamas' fashion choices, having done so during the past week.
The White House signaled many days ago that this will not be a political trip. No discussion of China's tensions with Japan. No lectures on China's human rights record. The goal is to elevate Michelle Obama's international education agenda and see some of China's great sights, while also allowing her to develop a relationship with her counterpart, Peng Liyuan, spouse of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who shares Obama's interests in education and public health.
During her first day in Beijing today, Obama and her family will visit Beijing Normal School, which prepares Chinese students for study abroad, and also tour the Forbidden City and attend a ceremonial dinner and evening performance.