First lady Michelle Obama is behaving very oddly this week.
The hip and happening new first lady of China, Peng Liyuan, is coming to America, but Michelle won’t be meeting her, which is causing some waves with the “extremely sensitive” Chinese, the New York Times reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his “glamorous singer and military general” wife will meet with President Obama for a highly anticipated U.S.-China Summit in California Friday and Saturday. But, Michelle has decided to stay home with Malia, 14, and Sasha, 12, who finished school this week.
Understandable, of course, but a potential diplomatic faux pas, nonetheless.
The Times reported:
The Chinese “will be disappointed,” said Cheng Li, a senior fellow on China policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based research organization. “They certainly have very high expectations for this meeting.”
“There will be more coverage in China than in the United States” of the Obama-Xi visit, Mr. Li predicted, and since the Chinese are “extremely sensitive,” Mrs. Obama’s absence “certainly needs some explanation.” But, he added, the Chinese will readily accept family obligations as the reason for Mrs. Obama’s absence.
And the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported:
Zhang Ming, a political scientist from China’s Renmin University, predicted 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.”
According to the Times, the meeting between the two presidents is more a “relationship-building” meeting than a policy setting meeting, Which makes Michelle’s absence all the more disappointing for China’s first lady.
Peng Liyuan, 50, is a popular and visible first lady and she has “elevated that role to a prominence and popularity unknown in the Communist era,” the Times article said.
More from the New York Times.