Michelle Obama's "gentle diplomacy" visit to China could be a great way for America to appreciate Chinese culture and start making up for meddling in its border disputes with Japan, according to the Chinese papers. Obama's non-political diplomacy trip falls on the 35th anniversary of Sino-U.S. diplomatic ties, "however, the globally significant trans-Pacific relationship has also witnessed strain due to some irresponsible moves by Washington," writes China Daily, the country's communist English-language paper. Those "irresponsible" actions include America's verbal involvement in Japan-China airspace dispute and the president's meeting with the Dalai Lama. Luckily Michelle has been "wowed by China" and "charmed" by her hosts, giving China's papers pleasant stories to write up. It's the American papers that are dwelling on all the censorship.
"Obamas climb Great Wall after lunch of trout"
As China Daily reported on Monday, Michelle and her two daughters walked along the Great Wall for 30 minutes after a lunch of "pan-fried rainbow trout, stewed pork served over pulled noodles and vegetarian dumplings with hot sauce and vinegar," according to the paper. "The meal finished with brownies, cheesecake and ice cream." Michelle wrote in a guest book that it was a "privilege and an honor" to be there, and a vendor said Michelle looked "more fabulous than on TV."
Pool reports from American reporters were a little less glowing. Conservative outlets were quick to point out how poorly treated pool reporters were. As The Washington Examiner noted, reporters were given limited access to the first lady, but still managed to find out that vendors were not allowed to sell shirts of President Obama in a Mao hat while the Obamas were there:
Several merchants denied carrying such items, but one merchant quietly took this correspondent to the back of her tent and showed off a whole box of the popular, normally seen t-shirts. ... other merchants came by, and in Chinese, told her to be careful. The merchant became visibly rattled and put the t-shirts away,” wrote pool reporter Stuart Leavenworth.
But Tang Liang, a U.S. citizen and the Obamas' guides for the Great Wall, said it was nice day. "We introduced the history of the place and left them alone for some privacy. They were eating, talking and laughing. It was a good time," she said.
"Michelle Obama supports studying abroad for 'bridges of understanding'"
Earlier in the week, Michelle gave a speech at Peking University to encourage study abroad programs between the United States and China. "By learning each other's languages and by showing such curiosity and respect for each other's cultures, you are building bridges of understanding that lead to so much more," she said, according to a report by Xinhua, a state-run news agency. The Xinhua report does not, however, mention her comments in support of free speech. From The New York Times:
The United States, she said, respected the “uniqueness” of other cultures and societies. “But when it comes to expressing yourself freely,” she said, “and worshiping as you choose, and having open access to information — we believe those are universal rights that are the birthright of every person on this planet.”
Free speech is a particularly touchy subject, since China has made it difficult for American journalists who are critical of the country to get visas. Bloomberg writer Ben Richardson quit the outlet on Monday to protest its self-censorship.