Opinion: Michelle Obama’s diplomatic visit

Haoran Li is a junior communications studies major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. He can be reached at [email protected].

Haoran Li

Michelle Obama, along with her two daughters and mother, traveled to China last week and visited cities such as Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu.

It was the first time between China and America that featured the two first ladies as the primary main component. Mrs. Obama did not simply take a short vacation in China — this was the reflection of the two countries’ relationship and a new gesture of China’s confidence in diplomacy as a power reborn.   

Actually, Sino-American relations have declined since China’s claim of the Air Defense identification Zone on its South China Sea, as America does not recognize its legitimacy. Furthermore, President Barack Obama met with Dalai Lama several months ago, whose legitimacy China does not admit in representing Tibet.

However, both countries understand the importance of the relations between one another. Therefore, the first ladies’ diplomacy has broken ground between two countries, and is a symbol of more stable relations between them rather than conflict.  

Mrs. Obama’s visit to China was not only a symbol of good relation between China and America but also a symbol of a more confident China in the world.

First Lady Peng Liyuan, now 51, was far more famous in China than her husband, President Xi Jinping, who quietly rose through the Communist Party’s ranks. A folk singer with the People’s Liberation Army, Peng attained the rank of major general and was known for warbling rousing socialist ditties like “People From Our Village.”

She is no longer a singer but an envoy indeed. Her emergence in the public eye has shown the development women’s participation in China’s politics. In Chinese political traditions, it is a symbol of decline if a woman participates in politics. At the end of Qing Dynasty, empress Cixi took emperor Daoguang’s power whereby Qing Dynasty failed.

During the 1966 and 1976, President Mao Zedong’s wife Jiang Qing stood in front of the public and caused chaos in China. Despite the position of women in Chinese politics has been historically met with negativity, Peng Liyuan’s emergence has shown that China’s politics and people have progressed with more confidence.

The first ladies’ meeting has also shown both countries have focused on using soft power to communicate with each other. “First lady diplomacy, which seems an expression of soft power, adds a new flavor to the relationship between China and the United States,” said Vincent Ni, a London-based Chinese journalist who followed the trip. “This could become an important channel for developing the future relationship between China and the United States.”

It is obvious that the relation between China and America will vastly differ from that of America and Russia. It is also apparent that China and America will contract a more communicated and more cooperated world in the near future, regardless of smaller arguments between one another.