In China, Michelle Obama to focus on education and shared values

In this March 14, 2014 file photo, first lady Michelle Obama speaks in Washington. Susan Walsh, AP

First lady Michelle Obama is leaving for China on Wednesday, along with her daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, and her mother, Marian Robinson, in what the White House is calling a "people to people" trip.

This is the third international trip Mrs. Obama is taking as first lady without President Obama. By taking her daughters and mother, the first lady will help illustrate the family values that Americans and the Chinese share.

The first lady and her family members arrive in Beijing on March 20. While there, they will visit landmarks like the Great Wall, the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City. She'll also visit schools, including the Stanford Center at Peking University where she'll discuss the importance of study abroad programs and other cultural exchanges. Mrs. Obama also hold a roundtable on education on Sunday in Beijing.

Mrs. Obama then visits to Xi'an on March 24 and Chengdu from March 25-26. In Xi'an, she'll visit the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum and the Xi'an City Wall. In Chengdu, she will visit the Chengdu Panda Base, which is home to about 50 pandas.

The first lady's office is encouraging American students to follow Mrs. Obama as she travels through China online and through social media. On Tuesday, Mrs. Obama is pairing with Discovery Education to host a "virtual field trip" with through a Chinese classroom. She'll also answer questions submitted through the Discovery Education website.

During several of her stops in Beijing, Mrs. Obama will be accompanied by China's First Lady Peng Liyuan. The trip comes less than a year less after Mrs. Obama missed her visit to the U.S., which some read as a political snub.

The White House said the first lady will focus on education while avoiding points of contention between the U.S. and China, such as human rights and technology issues.

Richard McGregor of the Financial Times told CBS This Morning that "soft" diplomacy can go a long way.

"There are many ways to sort of cut the sausage if you like," McGregor said. "You don't have to have Mrs. Obama to go over there and lecture and chide the Chinese about its human rights record for her to have a positive impact. She should go over there with a different message, a softer message, a more inclusive message."

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