By Jane Morse
Washington — First lady Michelle Obama is traveling to China, and plans to take along — virtually — as many U.S. students as want to share her experiences.
“I’ll be posting a daily travel blog, complete with videos and photos, and I’ll be taking — and answering — questions from kids across America as I go,” Obama says on the White House Web page for her China visit. “I look forward to sharing with you the stories of the students I meet, as well as the interesting facts I learn about Chinese history and culture.”
“With more than 1.3 billion people, China is the most populous country on Earth, and it plays an important role on the world stage,” Obama says, adding that “it’s critically important that young people like you learn about what’s going on not just here in America, but around the world.”
During her March 19–26 visit, which will take her to Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu, the first lady will be focusing on the power of education, both in her own life and in the lives of young people in both countries, says a White House release. Obama has, in her role as first lady, emphasized the importance of education for personal success. Her own parents were working-class minorities who, although they never went to college themselves, encouraged her to complete college and launch a professional career.
In Beijing, the first lady will meet with Peng Liyuan, the first lady of China, and will give a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University, where she will meet with Chinese and American students. Her second speech will be in Chengdu at a secondary school known for its technology and its outreach efforts to students in rural areas.
Accompanying Obama will be her daughters, Malia and Sasha, as well as their grandmother Marian Robinson, Obama’s mother.
China is the fifth most popular destination for American students studying abroad, says Tina Tchen, Obama’s chief of staff and herself a Chinese American. “We have about 200,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S., more than from any other country,” she said in a March 17 press briefing on Obama's trip to China. Some 20,000 American students are now studying in China, a number that President Obama hopes to increase via his 100,000 Strong Initiative, which he first launched in 2009, Tchen said.
If young Americans are able to understand China, it will be “invaluable experience,” according to Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes.
“The relationship between the United States and China is really as important as any relationship in the world,” he said at the March 17 press briefing. China, he noted, is the second-largest economy in the world and the United States’ fastest-growing trading partner. “And it’s also a country we cooperate with on a whole host of international issues,” he said.
While Obama’s focus during her trip to China will be on people-to-people relations, Rhodes noted that at about the same time President Obama will meet with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague.
Follow the first lady’s trip to China on the White House website.