March 18th, 2014
07:48 PM ET
6 months ago

First lady's official trip to China will stay away from politics

Washington (CNN)-First Lady Michelle Obama's trip to China this week will focus on broadening ties between the U.S. and China and will avoid discussions of any political differences.

Mrs. Obama will depart Wednesday on her week-long trip where she will visit three cities and speak to students at several schools about the importance of education and youth empowerment in their communities.

"Her visit and her agenda sends a message that the relationship between the United States and China is not just between leaders, it's a relationship between peoples," said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

"That's critically important, given the roles that our two countries are going to play in the 21st century, that we maintain the very regular contacts that we have at the leader-to-leader level, but that we're also reaching out and building relationships with people, particularly young people."

President Barack Obama is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week during the Nuclear Security Summit held in The Hague. White House officials told reporters on a conference call that issues on which the U.S. and China differ, such as human rights and trade, will be discussed directly between the two leaders and other representatives of the governments.

"We don't expect the people of China to agree with all of our policy positions at any given moment, but the more they understand the United States, the more they understand the President and the first lady and their values and their priorities, we think the better it is for both of our countries," Rhodes added.

Mrs. Obama plans on visiting the cities of Beijing and Chengdu where she will speak to students and discuss cultural exchanges and the benefits of studying abroad. China is the fifth most popular country for American students to study abroad, and more students from China study in the U.S. than from any other country.

Beyond her message on education, Mrs. Obama is also expected to meet with Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan. The two will tour the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. The Mrs. Obama will then travel to Xi'an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. In Chengdu, she will tour the Chengdu Panda Base, which houses approximately 50 pandas.

The first lady will be accompanied by her mother, Marian Robinson, and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, something that White House officials believe will resonate with the Chinese people.

"I think they understand the significance as well of family and of three generations of family traveling together, which I think the Chinese will appreciate, and will appreciate the ties and the bonds that the Obama family have with one another across generations," said the first lady's chief of staff Tina Tchen.

"This is a great opportunity for the Obama family to experience that, and I think for the Chinese to see that as well in an American family."

Mrs. Obama is being briefed regularly by the National Security Council staff before the trip but some of her preparation has come from local students in an Chinese immersion charter school located in Washington. The first lady visited Yu Ying two weeks ago and met with sixth-grade students who had recently traveled to the same cities. The children shared misconceptions they had before traveling to China.


Filed under: China • Michelle Obama
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. rhys coleman

    politics is a no go for us at the moment. god on mrs obama for attending though

    March 18, 2014 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  2. Mike

    She should not go at all! She is wasting taxpayer money for a meaningless trip except for her vacation! Stay home like a first lady should.

    March 18, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  3. Chris-E...al

    Poor Mrs 0bama all the dems want her to do is work the garden stay skinny and keep her mouth shut an cook dinner and raise those pretty sweet girls . I told ya .

    March 18, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  4. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    I hope this wonderful woman runs for office some day. She would be elected, despite her knuckle dragging detractors.

    March 18, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  5. S. B. Stein

    Given that she is not an elected official, she should indeed stay out of politics. I hope that she shows how good Americans can be.

    March 18, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  6. freedom

    Is this still the first time she's ever been proud of America? Maybe she'll sell out to China like her husband has to Russia. What a mess we're in while they're in the WH.

    March 18, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  7. Ddtgwt

    Of course she'll stay away from politics, it a vacation for her, her mother and her children.

    March 19, 2014 04:23 am at 4:23 am |
  8. Marie MD

    She will do a terrific job. We are so lucky to have such an intelligent caring First Lady.

    March 19, 2014 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  9. george

    More of what this country does not need. Someone with no power, no decision making ability, and the Chinese do not care about spending millions of my tax dollars for another vacation. Call it what you want, more waste by obonzo and his socalists.

    March 19, 2014 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  10. Bigdoglv

    No politics? Right. These people don't brush their teeth without knowing how it will affect their poll numbers.

    March 19, 2014 07:56 am at 7:56 am |