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US First Lady Employs 'Soft' Diplomacy During China Visit


First lady Michelle Obama's visits to tourist sites, meetings with students and time spent with China’s first lady have largely focused on so-called "soft diplomacy." Education, culture, and even lighthearted talk of a fashion showdown with China’s first lady Peng Liyuan have stirred discussion online.

On social media sites, many speculated about the high cost of her hotel room in Beijing and the extravagance of the trip.

But on the streets in Beijing most welcomed the visit and cultural exchanges.

"The purpose and goal of her trip is more meaningful than the cost," said one woman. "This is more than just interaction between two families, it's an exchange between two countries and having the first ladies interact has a deeper meaning and helps lift ties in many different ways."

In an address at Peking University Saturday, Mrs. Obama spoke about the importance of free speech as well as education. The comments were circulated widely online.


China and the United States face many barriers in their relationship and the visit is hoped to boost ties. However, in Beijing, some say it is unclear just how far the trip could go to helping address the complex challenges the two countries face.

"It will help some, but I don't think the trip will have a big impact," said one Chinese man. "Relations between countries are nothing like ties between families, there are all kinds of interests there. It's complicated."

"There are a lot of basic differences," said another woman, "the political system, the two countries state of economic development. Everything is different, even the way we think. China is very traditional."

But although some saw culture as an obstacle, others see the trip as building understanding between two nations that remain wary of each other.

"As long as both sides fear each other there will be mistrust, and that's really unnecessary," said one man.

On Monday, Mrs. Obama visited the museum of the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an, one of China's top tourist attractions. After Xi'an, Mrs. Obama and her daughters travel to Chengdu before wrapping up their visit.

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