Monday 18 December 2017

Michelle's 'snub' to China's first lady

Peter Foster Washington and Tom Phillips Shanghai

The hope that this weekend's summit between US President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping might inject a new warmth into US-China relations suffered a setback when the White House announced that Michelle Obama would not be joining her husband.

Her office cited domestic responsibilities – it is the last week of the school year for the Obamas' daughters Malia (14), and Sasha (11) – but the move leaves China's first lady, Peng Liyuan, to attend the summit without her American counterpart.

China experts warned that Mrs Obama's decision to stay in Washington could have an unwelcome chilling effect on a summit that White House officials have billed as an "unprecedented" opportunity to heal divisions between the world's two biggest economies.

Her absence may be interpreted as a deliberate snub, US and Chinese analysts said. The Chinese had hoped that their country's first lady would dazzle America during the two-day summit at the Sunnylands ranch in Palm Springs, which opens tomorrow and which both sides have trumpeted as an attempt to kick-start more constructive relations.

Zhang Ming, a political scientist from China's Renmin University, predicted that Mrs Obama's absence would "not go down very well" in Beijing.

"First lady diplomacy is also very important and the US side has failed to cooperate," he said. "According to normal diplomatic etiquette, this is very strange. It shouldn't be like this." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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