Tour adds 'new dimension' to ties

Updated: 2014-03-19 23:14

By Pu Zhendong in Beijing and Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)

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Tour adds 'new dimension' to ties

US First Lady Michelle Obama [Photo/Agencies]

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Douglas Paal, vice-president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said the visit is evidence that the US and China have a mutually beneficial and trusting relationship at the highest levels of government.

"I expect there to be attention to education, health and children, which are themes that should resonate positively with the people of China," Paal said. "The Obama daughters are getting a great spring break vacation."

Li said the US first lady is considered a mouthpiece of the US president because her remarks on important issues have to be first approved by her husband.

Personal visits to foreign countries by US first ladies, which date back to the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, have become an important duty and responsibility for contemporary first ladies.

US first ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama have made 37 foreign trips without their husbands at their sides over the past 20 years.

"Issues that the first ladies are concerned about range from healthcare, education and women's rights," said Da Wei, director of the department of American studies under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing.

On Saturday, Michelle Obama will speak at the Stanford Center at Peking University, where she will meet with Chinese and American students. China is the largest source of foreign students to US universities, while a growing number of US students are learning Mandarin — including 15-year-old Malia, the Obamas' eldest daughter.

Orville Schell, director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York, said the first lady's visit to China is the perfect prelude to a meeting next week between the US and Chinese presidents in The Hague. President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama will meet in the Netherlands on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. Obama is also expected to visit Beijing during November's APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.

AFP contributed to this story.

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