President Obama’s wife, Michelle, went to China with their children, Malia and Sasha and her mother.
Relations between China and the U.S. are never easy. Both countries have financial, military and political interests and differences. They are playing for high stakes in global influence. Every aspect of their relationship is a big deal.
Mrs. Obama’s visit was not meant to be what is called a “game changer.” But it has become a symbol of two different world views. The president’s wife could not go to China and denounce their suppression of religion and the rights of minorities, or their control of the media.
But she could, and she did, tell her story. In a talk at an elementary school, she said:
“Many decades ago, there were actually laws in America that allowed discrimination against black people like me, who are a minority in the United States. But over time, ordinary citizens decided that those laws were unfair. So they held peaceful protests and marches.
“Today, 50 years later, my husband and I are president and first lady of the United States.”
Mrs. Obama told students that school in the United States was not easy and fun. Talking about her schooling she told students:
“The school was very far from my home, so I had to up early every morning and ride a bus for an hour. And every afternoon, I would ride that bus back home and start my homework, often studying late in the night. And sometimes I would wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning to study even more.”
“Even Chinese kids do not get up that early,” said a stunned student.
Family trips like this are called soft diplomacy. The Chinese got a good view of three generations of a black-American family. There were no state dinners. There were visits to tourist sights.
It is clear that Mrs. Obama is sincere in her beliefs that America is a land of opportunity. Hard work still pays off.
Millions of Chinese listened, watched and reached their own silent conclusions about her message.
In the end, she is speaking about human values and she is being heard.
Source: The New York Times March 25, 2014