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Michelle Obama Joined by China's First Lady Peng Liyuan on ‘Soft Diplomacy’ Tour

( [email protected] ) Mar 21, 2014 10:06 AM EDT
US First Lady meets China’s ‘First Lady’ for a goodwill tour through China
Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan tour the Forbidden City Friday Reuters

On Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama, her mother, and her two daughters landed in China for a goodwill tour meant to grow the ties between the US and China.

According to the New York Times, Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping and a glamorous, nationally known singing star accompanied the group as they toured various locations. Many were expecting the two vibrant women to hit it off, but the Times reports that the encounter was stiff and subdued.

The trip to China comes days before U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to begin  discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Hague on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit next week.  Nuclear Security has been an issue championed by President Obama since he garnered the national spotlight.

According to Reuters, Xi greeted the first lady Friday evening and said he was looking forward to seeing her husband in the Netherlands.

"I cherish my sound working relationship and personal friendship I already established with your husband," Xi told Obama through a translator.

The entourage then visited the Beijing Normal School, which is  attended by elite Chinese students and teenagers from prestigious schools from around the world, including Americans from schools like Exeter, Andover and Sidwell Friends, where the Obama children attend back home in Washington. on study abroad programs.

Obama, wore black slacks and a loose black vest, as they traveled around.

Peng, who dressed in a cornflower-blue skirt suit, with a red leather clutch and matching stud earrings, was beautifully arrainged.  She was very courteous, and spoke some English to a few of the  foreign students and the Obama family.

Conversation between the two women was a little difficult for the two during a morning visit to a calligraphy class, especially because both spoke via their own translators.

"I'm nervous," Obama said, as she picked up her calligraphy brush.

"Don't be nervous," Peng replied in English.

Peng then wrote a four-character Chinese saying, "Only people of great virtue are suited to undertake great things."

They also visited a robotics class, and Obama played table tennis with students, before heading to the Forbidden City for a tour later Friday afternoon.

Obama's trip  will last a week and includes visits to the western historic city of Xi'an and the southern city of Chengdu, where she will visit a panda preserve. She will visit the Great Wall on Sunday, and also plans to meet Chinese education experts.

Although she is not going to touch on any hard issues, like human rights or environmental challenges,  she is expected to raise the issue of internet freedom - controversial in China - in a talk at a prominent Beijing university on Saturday, the U.S. administration official said.