China’s hopes that their first lady would dazzle the American public during this week’s summit between her husband, Xi Jinping, and Barack Obama have been dashed after it was announced that Michelle Obama would not attend.
Communist Party bosses had seen the June 7-8 Sunnylands summit as a golden opportunity to deploy Peng Liyuan’s much-vaunted charms on the world stage in a bid to spin a more favourable image of China’s leaders.
But on Tuesday Mrs Obama’s office told the New York Times the first lady would remain in Washington with her daughters who are coming to the end of their academic year.
Mrs Obama’s absence is likely to limit her Chinese counterpart’s role at the two-day California meeting, which begins on Friday, and may be interpreted as a snub, analysts said.
Zhang Ming, a political scientist from China’s Renmin University, predicted Mrs Obama’s absence would “not go down very well” in Beijing.
“First lady diplomacy is also very important and the US side has failed to cooperate,” he said. “According to normal diplomatic etiquette this is very strange. It shouldn’t be like this.”
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