The Debate

Michelle Obama Will Visit China This Month

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The Debate

Michelle Obama Will Visit China This Month

The most pressing question is whether Michelle Obama will meet with China’s first lady, Peng Liyuan.

Michelle Obama Will Visit China This Month
Credit: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Michelle Obama will spend a week in China later this month on an official trip, the White House announced on Monday.

The trip was announced in a blog post Michelle Obama published on the White House’s official blog.

“During my trip, I’ll be visiting a university and two high schools in Beijing and Chengdu (which are two of China’s largest cities),” the first lady of the United States (FLOTUS) wrote in the blog post. “I’ll be focusing in particular on the power and importance of education, both in my own life and in the lives of young people in both of our countries. I’ll also be visiting various historical and cultural sites in China.”

Michelle Obama also promised to keep a daily travel blog of her time in China, and the White House created a dedicated site for that purpose. It also encouraged visitors to sign up for daily email updates about FLOTUS’ trip.

Separately, the White House announced: “The First Lady will travel to China from March 19-26, 2014. She will be visiting Beijing from March 20-23, Xi’an on March 24, and Chengdu from March 25-26.” It reiterated that the focus on Mrs. Obama’s trip will be on education in China and the United States.

In her blog post, the first lady noted that the U.S. and China engaged in robust academic exchanges. China sends more students to the U.S. every year than any other country in the world. As Shannon reported last week, however, the U.S.-China exchange program has come under fire from some in the United States.

This month’s trip will be the first FLOTUS has made to China during her five years in office. President Obama will not be accompanying her on the trip. In fact, President Obama will not be stopping in China during his Asia trip next month, which will take him to Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan. According to press accounts, she will be taking her two daughters Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Robinson, along on the trip.

The most pressing issue, especially in China, will be whether she will hold a meeting with China’s first lady, Peng Liyuan. Peng was a well-known musician in China before becoming first lady. In contrast to the wives of most of China’s senior leaders, Peng has also been a highly visible first lady particularly during President Xi Jinping’s trips abroad. This has endeared her to many Chinese citizens, who have long compared her to Michelle Obama.

Notably, Michele Obama elected to not travel to the Sunnylands in California for the Xi-Obama summit last June, despite the fact that Peng was traveling with her husband. Thus, if Obama and Peng meet during the former’s visit to China this month—as press accounts claim they will—this will be the first time the two ladies have met face-to-face, at least since Peng became first lady of China.