Michelle Obama and her family arrived at Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in the early morning of March 26. The working staff there told the reporter the American first lady is scheduled to tour their base for two hours, which is just enough to walk through the whole base which covers nearly 230 hectares.
The base is far from the city, and in order to make Ms. Obama's trip safe, the base would be shut for public the whole morning. The reporter noticed a scant police power presence around the gate, with one police offer saying that the whole police team arrived around 8am and they could call it a day at noon, because Michelle Obama would leave for lunch by then.
When the motorcade of Ms. Obama drove in, the square in front of the entrance become even more deserted with just a few policemen patrolling around. Some tourists who have come a long way for seeing pandas are waiting outside impatiently for the base to be reopened in the afternoon.
A tourist from the US told the reporter he never expected they would shut the doors to welcome America's first lady, and as he had to catch an afternoon flight, his entire trip to the panda base was futile. When asked about his impression about Michelle Obama, he said that in his perspective, she is a responsible public figure and it was nice for her to visit China in this way when the two countries are having issues these days.
“You know the pictures of her hugging giant pandas would come out tomorrow and it means something, because in American minds, pandas represent China,” he told the reporter.
The panda base in Chengdu would be American first lady's final major destination in China, and on the same day, she would fly back to the US with her family.
But this is not the first time that Michelle Obama has touted the so-called “panda diplomacy.
On December 1, 2013, both countries’ first ladies released video greetings to welcome Bao Bao, the panda cub who was named to mark her 100th day according to Chinese tradition. The naming ceremony at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, attended by China’s ambassador to the U.S., was held after more than 123,000 people voted for the cub’s new name, which means “precious treasure.”
This time, it is reported that Ms. Obama hopes to learn more about how the panda experts would work to avoid extinction of the animals in China, and would push concerted efforts by the two countries in this regard.