Michelle Obama in Beijing for official visit with first daughters

March 21, 2014 at 2:37 PM
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BEIJING, March 21 (UPI) -- U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, on an official visit to China, said Friday she plans to encourage student exchanges between the two countries.

Obama, accompanied by her daughters, Sasha and Malia, met with President Xi Jingping and his wife, Peng Yiyuan, followed by dinner and entertainment. Earlier, Obama visited a Chinese school.

"We had an opportunity to meet with students," she said in brief remarks with Xi. "I tried my hand at ping pong -- not so good."

"Ping-pong diplomacy," an invitation extended to the U.S. Table Tennis Team to visit Beijing in 1971, was followed by a quick thaw in U.S.-China relations and President Richard Nixon's historic visit the next year.

"I'm going to focus my visit on education, which is an important issue to both of our nations," Obama said. "We've got to continue to highlight the importance of student exchange between our countries, and I'll be speaking about that tomorrow."

Xi spoke of his close working relationship with President Obama.

"I am confident that with the concerted efforts of the two sides, the China-U.S. relationship will keep moving forward towards our shared goal of building a new model of major country relationships," he said.

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