Culture to feature ahead of controversy for Michelle Obama’s China visit

As US first lady meets counterpart Peng Liyuan, she is expected to steer clear of issues such as human rights

US first lady Michelle Obama: visiting China this week with her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her mother Marian Robinson. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

US first lady Michelle Obama: visiting China this week with her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her mother Marian Robinson. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 17:34


Deepening relations between the world’s two biggest economies is expected to be the main purpose of a visit to China this week by US first lady Michelle Obama.

She will meet her counterpart Peng Liyuan for a stroll through the Forbidden City and is expected to steer clear of controversial issues such as human rights.

Ms Obama will visit Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu with her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her mother Marian Robinson.

The focus has been on the cultural aspect of the visit, which in diplomatic terms makes up for when Ms Peng visited the US last June with her husband Xi Jinping and Ms Obama was unable to take part in the meeting at Sunnylands, California.

Ms Peng is an opera singer and a major star in China.

Xinhua news agency quoted observers saying the trip would “spark new interest in Chinese culture among Americans and further advance people-to-people exchanges between the two countries”.

Ms Peng will also accompany the Obamas on a visit to a high school and attend a private dinner and performance in Beijing, reflecting the theme of the trip, which is “the power and importance of education” for young people.

The Global Times , an English-language Chinese newspaper, believes Ms Obama will be under pressure to discuss China’s human rights record, and admitted that China is still at the development stage on this issue. “China should adopt an assertive stance, as we have been making progress in improving the human rights situation. We should be poised to respond to their queries in a calm and positive way,” said the editorial