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Thursday 21 August 2014

Michelle Obama in first China visit

Published 04/03/2014 | 04:52

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Michelle Obama will visit China later this month (AP)

US First Lady Michelle Obama is planning a week-long visit to China this month, her first trip to the Asian economic powerhouse.

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Mrs Obama said in a blog posting a China visit is important because it is the most populous country in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people, and plays an important role on the world stage.

The White House said Mrs Obama will travel from March 19-26. She will spend several days in Beijing, followed by stops in the central city of Xian and the south-western city of Chengdu.

Her schedule includes a meeting with Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Mrs Obama missed meeting China's first lady last June when the newly installed Xi, accompanied by his wife, travelled to Southern California for a summit with President Barack Obama. Mrs Obama stayed in Washington for personal reasons.

She wrote a letter to Peng Liyuan welcoming her to the US and expressing hope that they would meet soon in China, the White House said.

During her visit, Mrs Obama will focus on the power and importance of education, including in her own life, during visits to a high school and a university in Beijing, and a high school in Chengdu.

She recently began an effort at home to encourage America's young people, including some of the most economically disadvantaged, to pursue a college education. On past trips outside the US, she also has stressed the same points to students from the host country. Mrs Obama grew up in a poor Chicago family, but ended up with degrees from two of America's best schools.

In China, she will be accompanied by daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Robinson, who lives at the White House. President Barack Obama will not be on the trip. He departs the US later that week for stops in Europe and Saudi Arabia.

Mrs Obama is encouraging students across the US to follow her trip on social media and the White House website, where she will post a daily travel blog.

In preparation for the trip, she scheduled a visit to a Washington charter elementary school with a Chinese-immersion, international baccalaureate programme. Mrs Obama will hear a presentation from sixth-graders who visited China last year and meet pre-kindergarten students who are learning Chinese.

In her blog, the first lady said countries today are no longer isolated and are facing many of the same challenges, whether it is to provide students with a good education, combat hunger, poverty and disease, or address threats like climate change.

"These issues affect every last one of us, so it's critically important that young people like you learn about what's going on not just here in America, but around the world," Mrs Obama said. "Because when it comes to the challenges we face, soon, all of you will be leading the way."

"That's why everywhere I go, whether it's here in the US or abroad, I meet with young people to hear about your challenges, hopes and dreams - and that's what I'll be doing in China as well," she said. "I'll be focusing on the power and importance of education, both in my own life and in the lives of young people in both of our countries."

Press Association

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