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US First Lady Employs 'Soft' Diplomacy During China Visit

US First Lady Employs 'Soft' Diplomacy During China Visiti
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March 24, 2014 5:39 PM
First Lady Michelle Obama and her family spent the weekend visiting some of Beijing's key tourist attractions. She also delivered a speech to students at Peking University and attended a roundtable discussion on education. VOA's Bill Ide spoke with Beijing residents about their impressions of the trip, and the wide-ranging online discussions sparked by her travels.

US First Lady Employs 'Soft' Diplomacy During China Visit

William Ide
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.

  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama practices tai chi with students at Chengdu No.7 High School in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province, March 25, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama looks at a terracotta warrior as she visits Qinshihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum with her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Shields Robinson, in Xi'an, March 24, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama walks with her daughters Malia and Sasha as they visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, March 23, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama speaks next to U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus as they attend a round table discussion on education at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, March 23, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, followed by her daughters Malia and Sasha, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Diaoyutai State guest house in Beijing, March 21, 2014.
  • Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, shows U.S. first lady Michelle Obama how to hold a writing brush as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, March 21, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama plays table tennis at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend colleges overseas, March 21, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, her daughters Sasha and Malia and her mother Marian Robinson pose with Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, as they visit Forbidden City in Beijing, March 21, 2014.

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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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: a buddist from: east
March 24, 2014 9:53 PM
Chinese people are very hospitable, of couse, Mrs obama is receiving a warm welcome! even her husband had done a lot of things that hurt the feelings of chinese people. just as someone put it, "I don't think the trip will have a big impact on the relation between the contries." but come china is better than not come. the trip will absolutly is helpful to building understanding of two nations.

In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NY
March 26, 2014 9:57 AM
What you really mean is Pres. Obama said things that hurt the feelings of the CCP, not the Chinese people. The Chinese people want human rights and democratic reforms. They don't want a one-party dictatorship. They don't want corruption & censorshiop. And what about the feelings of Tibetans & Uighurs who don't want to be oppressed or live under coloniallism? Why do you discount the feelings of Tibetans & Uighurs?

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