Some in China are unhappy that First Lady Michelle Obama is skipping Friday’s meeting between President Obama and newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the Associated Press.
The first lady’s absence adds to the strangeness of the meeting, with Obama and Xi staging their first formal session together out in California, where Obama will be fundraising today, instead of at the White House.
From the AP report:
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.”
Michelle has been on a fundraising whirlwind the past two weeks, traveling last week to Boston and New York to drum up money. She recently hopscotched the country to tell kids to move their butts and eat less. But the first lady’s role of representing her country and aidingU.S. diplomacy by being present at meetings between heads of states, arguably one of her most vital tasks, will be ignored Friday.