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BEIJING — First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in the Chinese capital with her two daughters on Thursday, sparking a flurry of discussion here over a new kind of U.S.-China diplomacy: family time.
Obama, along with daughters Sasha and Malia, is visiting China at the invitation of Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan. It’s not clear whether the college-aged daughter of China’s first couple will attend events.
The family visit is in keeping with Peng’s trailblazing approach, breaking the mold of wives of Chinese Communist Party leaders who stayed well in the background.
A glamorous former singer with the People’s Liberation Army, Peng has assumed a much more public role alongside her husband, President Xi Jinping. Chinese first families do not typically play host to the families of other world leaders.
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Chinese Internet commentators have their eyes on what the women might wear, especially at the official dinner on Friday evening in Beijing. Peng is well known for bringing fashion to the Chinese first family.
The Obamas are to spend this weekend in Beijing, where, in addition to the official dinner and sightseeing, Michelle Obama will speak at Peking University. The family then moves on to Xi’an to see the famed army of terracotta warriors, then to the western city of Chengdu. There, Obama will talk to students at the Chengdu Number 7 High School about the importance of education.
The Obama’s departing meal in Chengdu will be at a Tibetan restaurant. With the Tibetan plateau under tight lockdown amid an ongoing spate and self-immolations to protest Chinese rule, the meal sounds a note about a delicate human rights issue in China.