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Obama Meets the Chinese President in Netherlands as the US First Lady Continues Her Soft Diplomacy in China

Written by Owen On 25 March 2014 @ 6:01 am | No Comments

In Breaking News, China, Chinese, Citizen Media, Development, East Asia, English, Governance, Human Rights, International Relations, Politics

This week, the Obamas are trying their hands at diplomacy with China – from two very different angles.  

Obama

Screen grab from Youku. Michelle Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan on March 21.

US First Lady Michelle Obama made [1] her maiden trip to mainland China for a bit of “soft diplomacy”, focusing on education and youth empowerment during the weeklong trip to three Chinese cities. Setting aside scheduled meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan [2], her travels in China look no different than those of an inquisitive tourist – in Beijing, she practiced traditional Chinese calligraphy, toured the ancient Forbidden City and ascended the Great Wall.

Accompanied by her mother and two daughters, Ms Obama’s China tour is seen by many as a chance to soothe tensions between China and the US. Relations between the two nations have undergone ups and downs in recent years. The US pivot [3] to the Asia Pacific, part of the Obama administration's strategic rebalancing, has kept China on alert.  

Meanwhile, China’s increasing military assertiveness [4] in the South China Sea and Barack Obama’s two meetings [5] with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, have led the two nations to exchange words of anger towards each other.

While the Chinese audience is inundated this week with reports about Mrs. Obama’s fashion choices and her encounter with China’s first lady, the intended soft diplomacy has been marred by revelations [6] that the US National Security Administration (NSA) breached the internal servers of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. 

The scoop, based on documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported by The New York Times [7], could overshadow the meeting between US President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit thousands of miles away in the Netherlands.

In the meantime, the US approach to the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine is not likely to go down well with China, a close ally of Russia. When it comes to its foreign policy, China has long maintained a doctrine of “non-interference” in others’ internal affairs. And Crimea scenario haunts Chinese leadership as they fear the same could happen with its Tibet and Xinjiang region. 

Commenting on Chinese popular microblogging site Sina Weibo, Hai Gehua, who is head of a company in Shanxi province, used [8] an analogy to describe Michelle Obama's visit to China:

就是两个老爷们准备谈笔大生意,但是大家都还不知道对方的心理底线,所以让媳妇先打打前站……亲情化作战,值得参考和借鉴!

It’s just like two men getting ready to sign a big business deal. Without knowing each other's psychological bottom line, they sent out their wives to do the warm-up… Tactic of using family ties, something worth learning!

Fan Haitao, a former journalist with Beijing Youth Daily, wrote [9]:

米歇尔访华,按照今天白宫的说法,不仅仅是推动两国领导人的关系,而要推动两国人民之间的关系。米歇尔将关注教育,推动中美之间青年之间的教育教育项目。具体的城市是北京–西安–成都。米歇尔将在北京大学演讲,在西安参观兵马俑,在第七高中再进行一场演讲。

According to the White House, Michelle's visit to China not only could strengthen the ties between the leaders of these two countries, but also the people-to-people exchange. Michelle is going to focus on education and promote the educational programs between China and the United States. Michelle will be visiting Beijing, Xi'an and Chengdu. She will give a speech at Peking University, visit the Terracotta Warriors and finally give another speech at high school No.7 Chengdu.

Despite little mention of politics from Michelle Obama, Oriental Outlooks tried to interpret [10] the meaning behind her visit: 

今日起,美国总统奥巴马夫人米歇尔将携家人展开为期一周的访华行程,这是米歇尔首次单独对华进行正式访问。虽然米歇尔访华已经基本明确不会触碰政治问题,但是对于她的访华用意,舆论仍有很多政治方面的猜测

Starting today, the first lady of the United States, Mrs. Michelle Obama will pay a weeklong visit to China accompanied by her mother and daughters. This is Michelle's first official visit to China without her husband. Although it's been clear the Michelle will not touch upon politics in China, when it comes to the intentions behind the visit, there has been some strong public opinion speculating about her political motives.

Echoing [11] the same sentiment is TakungPao, Hongkong-based newspaper: 

米歇尔在最后一站成都访问时,特意安排到西藏餐厅享用午餐。分析指这项行程凸显米歇尔今次“柔性外交”暗藏机锋,希望以此带出美国关注西藏人权的政治信息。

Michelle is going to have lunch in a Tibetan restaurant during her last stop in Chengdu. Analysts pointed out that the arrangement indicates Michelle’s hidden intention of her “flexible diplomacy”, which is to convey the political point of America’s concern for human rights in Tibet.

Qingshui Zhilian wrote [12]:

大国博弈,第一夫人也在博弈。彭丽媛只陪了米歇尔一天,就飞到欧洲了。 

The game between two big powers are taking place between two first ladies. Peng Liyuan accompanied Michelle for a day and flew to Europe.

Carl Hu contributed Weibo translation to this post.


Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org

URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/03/25/obama-meets-chinese-xi-in-netherlands-as-us-first-lady-continues-her-soft-diplomacy-in-china/

URLs in this post:

[1] made: http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/20/politics/michelle-obama-china/

[2] Peng Liyuan: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-20321610

[3] pivot: http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/obama-administrations-pivot-asia

[4] military assertiveness: http://nsc.anu.edu.au/documents/occasional-5-brief-4.pdf

[5] meetings: http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/20/world/asia/china-us-dalai-lama/

[6] revelations: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/world/asia/nsa-breached-chinese-servers-seen-as-spy-peril.html?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults%230&version=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry283%23%2FHuawei&_r=0

[7] The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com

[8] used: http://weibo.com/haigehua

[9] wrote: http://www.weibo.com/p/1005051644472761/weibo?from=page_100505&mod=TAB#place

[10] interpret: http://weibo.com/lwdfzk

[11] Echoing: http://weibo.com/takungnews

[12] wrote: http://globalvoicesonline.org http://www.weibo.com/u/1784696962

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