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Michelle Obama begins China trip

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama gestures as she and her daughter Sasha, right, leave their plane at Capital International Airport in Beijing Thursday, March 20, 2014. Michelle Obama has arrived in Beijing with her mother and daughters to kick off a seven-day, three-city tour. Photo: AP

After a long journey from Washington, US first lady Michelle Obama landed in Beijing on Thursday evening, starting her long-awaited trip to China with a big smile and a wave.

Visiting on the invitation of Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan , Obama′s trip will focus on building cultural ties between the two nations and will avoid political topics.

Obama waved as she stepped out of the airplane with her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters, Sasha and Malia, at Beijing′s Capital International Airport, where they were welcomed by Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng.

Chinese internet users were quick to point out that Obama′s dress was designed by American Derek Lam, who has Chinese lineage.

The White House promised social media updates about her trip, but Obama had no plans to give media interviews.

Today, the US first lady and Peng will visit the Beijing Normal School, which helps students prepare for study abroad. Peng will also take Obama to stroll inside the Forbidden City, eat Peking duck and watch a performance together.

"It is another innovation in the history of Chinese diplomacy" and helps both sides' leaders strengthen their personal relations, said Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies.
Ruan was referring to the latest "creative" laid-back meeting between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart, Barack Obama, at the Sunnylands resort in California last June, soon after Xi assumed office.
Peng accompanied her husband on the Sunnylands visit but did not meet Michelle Obama, who was in Washington. Her absence left some Chinese disappointed and more excited about the "make-up" meeting.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Obama′s visit could promote Sino-US friendship.

Tomorrow, Obama will deliver a speech at the Stanford Centre at Peking University, visit the Summer Palace, and meet with US embassy staff. On Sunday, she will host a round-table discussion on education and visit the Great Wall, before heading west to Xian on Monday and Chengdu on Tuesday.

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