Online Tools Facebook Icon Twitter Icon

Share

Chinese Voice Disappointment Over Mrs. Obama’s Absence

06/08/2013 4:42

By Associated Press | June 7, 2013Last Updated: June 7, 2013 10:00 am TweetGive feedback First lady Michelle Obama (R) and U.S. President Barack Obama (L) greet people at Arlington Cemetery, May 27, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. Mrs. Obama is not accompanying her husband to the summit with Chairman Xi Jinping, to the disappointment of some Chinese. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

First lady Michelle Obama (R) and U.S. President Barack Obama (L) greet people at Arlington Cemetery, May 27, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. Mrs. Obama is not accompanying her husband to the summit with Chairman Xi Jinping, to the disappointment of some Chinese. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

More in China SocietyHostesses wait for customers at the entrance to a Korean restaurant in Dandong in China's northeastern Liaoning Province, on Dec. 12, 2012. Growth in China's restaurant industry slowed by almost 40 percent in 2012. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)
China’s Restaurant Industry Faces Lean Times

Chinese students arrive for the first day of the Gaokao in Wuhan on June 7, 2012. New security checks to prevent cheating mean female students in Jilin Province cannot wear underwire bras during China’s upcoming college entrance exams. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)
Bras Banned During Exams in North East China

Chinese web portal NetEase created a computer game mocking a Yan'an "chengguan" officer who stomped on a man's head when the man tried to stop a group of officers from taking away the bicycles parked outside his bike shop. (Weibo.com)
Violent Police Stomping Raises Questions in China

WASHINGTON—While President Barack Obama is meeting up with the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China in California this weekend, some Chinese are disappointed that first lady Michelle Obama won’t be on the trip.

The first lady’s office would only say she was staying in Washington to be with family. Monday is younger daughter Sasha Obama’s 12th birthday, and Mrs. Obama early on declared herself “mom in chief” and always has said her girls come first.

Friday and Saturday’s summit between Barack Obama and Xi Jinping is their first since Xi was installed in March. They are meeting at Sunnylands, a sprawling desert estate with a private golf course in Rancho Mirage.

A White House official said Chinese officials asked about Mrs. Obama’s plans when the trip was scheduled several weeks ago and was told she was not able to make it. The official, speaking on a condition of anonymity without authorization to discuss trip negotiations on the record, said the Chinese never complained or raised the question again.

But a person in Beijing familiar with the preparations said that when National Security Adviser Tom Donilon visited last week to hammer out plans for the summit, both sides talked as if the two women would meet.

Publicly, Beijing is muting any hurt feelings over Mrs. Obama’s no-show at Sunnylands. Asked whether her absence was regrettable, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, “Regarding the relevant arrangements on the U.S. side, we respect them.”

But disappointment over Mrs. Obama’s absence was palpable if not vehement in some Chinese mainstream and social media. Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan, is a rare commodity in Chinese politics—a popular political spouse known for her style and poise who has been accompanying Xi on his diplomatic travels.

Peng holds the rank of major general in the People’s Liberation Army and was a popular singer on state television, best known for her stirring renditions of patriotic odes, often while wearing full dress uniform. Many Chinese were interested in seeing how she compares with the United States’ own glamorous, high profile first lady.

Zhang Ming, an international studies expert at Renmin University in Beijing, was quoted on social media as calling Mrs. Obama’s absence from their husbands’ meeting as “strange for normal diplomatic protocol.”

“The Chinese public will actually be quite unhappy, because they are quite proud of their first lady’s role in diplomacy,” Zhang said in a telephone interview. “If Michelle doesn’t go, it will make it difficult for our first lady to perform.”

Zhang and others expressed skepticism that Mrs. Obama was skipping the trip to be with her daughters.

“Chinese people might be ‘extremely sensitive’ or maybe they like to pursue perfection, but when they see that the first lady has let a ‘family trifle’ influence ‘a major state event,’ they will inevitably be disappointed,” said the pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao in a commentary on its website.

Related posts: