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First lady Michelle Obama / Susan Walsh, AP

First lady Michelle Obama heads to China this week, and hopes to avoid any talk about American-Chinese political differences.

"The overall message of this trip will be on people-to-people exchange," said Tina Tchen, the first lady's chief of staff, with an emphasis on "cultural exchanges" and education.

Mrs. Obama will meet with her Chinese counterpart Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping, but the two first ladies will visit a school.

The U.S. first lady will also address American and Chinese students at Peking University, and visit a high school in Chengdu.

Mrs. Obama leaves for China on Wednesday, and flies back to the United States on March 26.

The United States and China have argued about items ranging from trade rules to human rights to electronic surveillance.

But those are the kinds of items that presidents Obama and Xi will discuss when they meet next week on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands.

The first lady's trip has "a very different purpose," said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

It involves "reaching out to young people in China (and) broadening the ties between our two countries," Rhodes said.

Mrs. Obama -- who will be accompanied by her two daughters Malia and Sasha, and by her mother Marian Robinson -- will also visit some of China's most famous sites.

The schedule includes the Great Wall of China, the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian, and the Chengdu Panda Base, home to about 50 pandas.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: M. Obama visits China for 'people-to-people' diplomacy

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