Saturday, 22 March 2014

Michelle Obama's Soft Power

Never seen Chinese President Xi Jinping posing with so many women before
First Lady Michelle Obama's putting on a good show of soft power during her visit to Beijing these few days.

She did the usual touristy things like visit the Forbidden City -- without any other tourists around -- and tried her hand at calligraphy and table tennis.

First Lady Michelle Obama with her counterpart Peng Liyuan
However for her counterpart Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, acting the hostess seemed nerve-wracking for her -- despite being used to performing on stage.

The political arena was new for Peng and admitted she was nervous when she and Mrs Obama were writing calligraphy.

Peng picked up a brush and wrote a four-character saying: "Only people of great virtue are suited to undertake great things".

Mrs Obama got the hang of table tennis and had a lot of fun, adding, "My husband plays. He thinks he's better than he really is."

Today the First Lady gave a speech at Peking University, saying that freedom of speech particularly on the Internet and in the news media was the foundation for a vibrant society.

Mrs Obama trying her hand at calligraphy with Peng Liyuan
"Time and again, we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices and opinions of all their citizens can be heard," she said. The United States, she continued, respected the "uniqueness" of other cultures and societies. "But when it comes to expressing yourself freely, 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."

While criticism of Chinese leaders are quickly wiped out of cyberspace, Mrs Obama explained that not everything was rosy for her and President Obama.

"My husband and i are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens," she said. "And it's not always easy, but we wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

Speeches like these give the average Chinese a mini insight into what life is like in America; and usually they are made on the progressive campus of Peking University.

Mrs Obama extolling the virtues of free speech at Peking U
With Chinese and American students present, perhaps Mrs Obama will do her part to influence the next generation of leaders... if the Party loosens up...

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