|Michelle Obama and family savor history, while 52,000 yuan suite raises eyebrows
US first lady Michelle Obama took her daughters and mother to Beijing's former imperial palace today on her first visit to China.
Obama, her daughters Malia and Sasha, and her mother Marian Robinson were photographed along with China's first lady Peng Liyuan at the central pavilion of the sprawling Forbidden City, known as the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
The visit is Obama's first to China.
Obama, her family and Peng began at the No 2 High School Attached to Beijing Normal University.
Photos posted online by China's state-run Legal Evening News showed them observing students at the school learning how to build robots.
The group took part in a calligraphy demonstration, with Obama and her family looking on as Peng wrote out: “Great virtue promotes growth,’’ before giving it to the visitor, according the Legal Evening News.
The trip has been front-page news in China's state-run media, and several outlets have run op-eds hailing the planned focus on “soft'' issues such as education rather than on political topics.
“When briefing the media about Michelle's trip, the US side said the first lady is to steer clear of politics, human rights, trade disputes and other bilateral differences -- issues better handled via official diplomacy,'' Xinhua wrote in a commentary Thursday.
“That approach is right. The uniqueness of the role of first ladies is its soft touch and freedom from the knottiness and even ugliness of hard politics.''
The question of the trip's cost, however, has drawn attention on both sides of the Pacific.
Chinese social network users widely circulated a China National Radio report on the lavish 52,000-yuan-a-night hotel suite where it said the Obama family were staying.
According to the hotel website, the suite is 320 square meters and includes a kitchen, bar, sauna, jacuzzi, dining table for six and a treadmill.