Obamas wowed by China

Updated: 2014-03-24 09:56

By ZHAO SHENGNAN, LI XIAOKUN and LIU WEI in Beijing and CHEN WEIHUA in Washington (China Daily USA)

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On Saturday, Mrs Obama gave a 15-minute speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University, on the importance of educational exchanges. The entire speech has been posted on the White House blog.

"We believe that relationships between nations aren't just about relationships between governments or leaders. They're about relationships between people, particularly our young people," said wrote.

The US first lady described study abroad programs "a vital part of America's foreign policy" and said it "could help young people from different countries better cooperate with each other and know they all have a stake in each other's success, and then to tackle their shared challenges".

Wang Enge, president of Peking University, echoed Mrs Obama's view, saying "mutual understanding is the very first step" for China to fully integrate into, and be fully accepted by, the world.

Wang also spoke of his anticipation of more US students coming to China, including Obama's two teenage daughters joining Peking University, which triggered applause from the audience.

After interacting with the students, the Obama entourage spent the afternoon visiting the Summer Palace, where they watched a Peking Opera drama with US students and teachers who also happened to be in Beijing.

The students, mostly sixth to eighth graders from Thomas Middle School and Southern Middle School in Chicago, all chose Chinese as their foreign language optional course in school.

Their summer trip to China was scheduled long before their teacher Brenda Hsu knew that the first lady would also visit the Summer Palace on Saturday.

"We are very honored to meet the first lady here in Beijing, because she has been a very active supporter and promoter of education and cultural exchange," Hsu said. Her student, 14-year-old Mason Grabowski, started learning Chinese four years ago and believes it is the language of the future.

"Learning Chinese is a cool thing in school. It is good for business and job opportunities," said Grabowski. "It is a hard language, but it is never too early to start learning it."