Michelle Obama arrives in China for official visit

Updated 2:13 PM EDT, Thu March 20, 2014

Story highlights

The U.S. first lady will meet with Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan on Friday

The two women have several activities planned

Mrs. Obama won't be talking politics during her week-long visit to three Chinese cities

Her mother and her two daughters are also joining the trip

CNN —  

First lady Michelle Obama is in China for an official visit to expand Sino-American relations, but she will refrain from talking about political differences.

The three generations of girls and women flew from Washington on Wednesday for what is to be a weeklong trip to three Chinese cities, where Obama is expected to speak with children at schools about education and youth empowerment.

The U.S. first lady has several activities and events scheduled Friday with Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan.

“Her visit and her agenda sends a message that the relationship between the United States and China is not just between leaders, it’s a relationship between peoples,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

“That’s critically important, given the roles that our two countries are going to play in the 21st century, that we maintain the very regular contacts that we have at the leader-to-leader level, but that we’re also reaching out and building relationships with people, particularly young people.”

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at next week’s Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague, Netherlands.

“We don’t expect the people of China to agree with all of our policy positions at any given moment, but the more they understand the United States – the more they understand the President and the first lady and their values and their priorities – we think the better it is for both of our countries,” Rhodes added.

Mrs. Obama plans to visit the cities of Beijing and Chengdu, where she will speak to students and discuss cultural exchanges and the benefits of studying abroad. China is the fifth most popular country for American students studying abroad, and more students from China study in the United States than from any other country.

Beyond her message on education, Mrs. Obama will join Madame Peng in a tour of the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Mrs. Obama will then travel to Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. In Chengdu, she will tour the Chengdu Panda Base, which houses approximately 50 pandas.

The first lady will be accompanied by her mother, Marian Robinson, and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, something that White House officials believe will resonate with the Chinese people.

“I think they understand the significance as well of family and of three generations of family traveling together, which I think the Chinese will appreciate, and will appreciate the ties and the bonds that the Obama family have with one another across generations,” said the first lady’s chief of staff, Tina Tchen.

“This is a great opportunity for the Obama family to experience that, and I think for the Chinese to see that as well in an American family.”