Michelle Obama's triumph in China

Michelle Obama's triumph in China
Mrs Obama performing taiji with students in Chengdu, south-western Sichuan province, on Tuesday. On the trip, she told stories about her childhood and her studying hard, and allowed her audience to fill in the blanks and arrive at their own observations and conclusions.

You would have to say that the prominent woman from America, with the impressive academic credentials, handled herself pretty well. So, perhaps it was no surprise that she seemed undaunted by the political complexity of the assignment, seemed not to cower at all in the face of the diplomatic risk, and in fact seemed to absolutely (but not outrageously) flourish in the spotlight of an important diplomatic effort.

And what, in fact, was that assignment?

It was to go to China and present yourself as a citizen of the US without any apology, and yet not insult your hosts by telling them how to run their country.

But then again - you are going to China not as any old US citizen, but as a special VIP indeed, and so how do you not act like some Big-Foot-in-Mouth American telling the world what it is doing wrong and why America is almost always right?

But this - exactly - was the extraordinary achievement of Mrs Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States, these past few days. So, for those who do not know how to pull this off, let us learn some lessons from her.

Now that the week-long trip to the mainland is concluded, definitive judgment is not premature. The trip was a triumph, and may even have helped to soften tensions and misunderstandings in the always complicated Sino-American bilateral face-off.

How exactly did Mrs Obama pull off the coup?

To put it plainly, she talked softly and never once mentioned the big stick. She confined herself to the realities of actual American life and left the bragging to others back home (who in some case do not know what they are talking about - but that is another story).

She told stories about her childhood and her growing up and her studying hard, and allowed her audience to fill in the blanks and arrive at their own observations and conclusions.

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