Michelle Obama's 'Mom in Chief' Image a Smash Hit With Chinese Media
First Lady Michelle Obama is making a major splash during her first visit to China, transforming a low-profile trip into a diplomatic success, with a smitten Chinese media celebrating the budding relationship between the U.S. first lady and her Chinese counterpart, Peng Liyuan.
The China News Service described the First Lady as “Mrs. Diplomatic,” saying her visit could usher in a creative form of “soft adjustment” in Sino-U.S. ties, while the official Xinhua news agency described the visit as “an unprecedented and historical moment in the chapter of China-U.S. relations.”
On Friday, Obama strolled through the Forbidden City with Peng, a major opera star in the country who until a few years ago was much better known than her husband, President Xi Jinping.
Peng is China's highest-profile first lady in many years, and the strong public relations potential of her connection with Obama is being played up.
Obama’s “mom in chief” image is already a big hit with Chinese media.
On her visit, which will take her to Beijing, Xi'an and Chengdu, she will be accompanied by her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Robinson. Three generations of women from one family traveling together on the trip is making a big impression in China, where family ties and filial piety are highly esteemed.
There were gushing reports throughout the Chinese press on Friday featuring photographs of the first lady visiting schools and playing ping pong.
“Michelle’s visit to China can be considered as making up for missing the meeting with Xi and his wife last year. Moreover, First Lady inviting First Lady is a diplomatic innovation between China and the U.S. The meaning is very special,” Ma Zhengang, vice president of the China Public Diplomatic Association, told China News Service.
The Global Times, which is published by the People’s Daily, the official Communist Party organ, said her visit could help ease mistrust between China and the U.S., and ran a series of panels comparing and contrasting the two first ladies’ fashion preferences, favorite designers and preferred accessories.
Obama is expected to steer clear of controversial issues such as human rights, although the Hong Kong newspaper Oriental Daily said there were “political connotations” in her choice of a Tibetan restaurant for a meal during the visit.
The focus will be cultural and educational during the visit, which, in diplomatic terms, makes up for when Peng visited the U.S. last June with President Xi and the Obama was unable to take part in the meeting at Sunnylands, California.
The White House said Obama's message on the trip will focus on cultural ties between the two countries and "the power and importance of education" for young people in both countries.
Chinese government spokesman Hong Lei told Xinhua that the visit takes place at a time when China and the U.S. are constructing a new type of relationship.
“It has a major meaning to deepen the understanding and enhance the friendship between two countries,” said Hong.