U.S. first lady Michelle Obama brought the importance of education to the foreground on Sunday on the third day of a visit to China, where she has won praise for her approachability and admiration for her comments supporting freedom of speech.
Mrs. Obama hosted a discussion about education with a handful of Chinese professors, students and parents, as well as the new U.S. ambassador to China, Max Baucus, at the U.S. Embassy on Sunday morning. In the afternoon, she visited part of the Great Wall in the northern Beijing suburbs with her daughters, 15-year-old Malia and 12-year-old Sasha, and her mother, Marian Robinson.
There, the first lady and her daughters walked a stretch of the wall that looks out to a massive rock inscription on a hillside that reads in Chinese: “Loyal to Chairman Mao.”
The purpose of Mrs. Obama’s weeklong visit is to promote educational exchanges between the U.S. and China, although she brought up a contentious issue Saturday in a 15-minute speech at a university.
She said that freedom of speech and unfettered access to information make countries stronger and should be universal rights. But she did not call out on Beijing directly in her speech at Peking University’s Stanford Center.
China has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on the Internet, and Mrs. Obama’s comments were absent Sunday from state media but circulated in social media, where they were widely praised.
During the private discussion, Mrs. Obama asked about China’s college entrance exam and how easy it was for graduates to find work, and expressed hopes that society would pay more attention to the disabled and that more students from ethnic minorities would participate in exchanges between the two countries, according to a student at the meeting who would only give her surname, Sun.
Mrs. Obama on Friday toured an elite Beijing high school in the company of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife, Peng Liyuan. On Tuesday, she will visit a high school in the southwestern city of Chengdu.