Melania Trump to cap Asia trip with China stop
Posted November 7, 2017 11:23 p.m. EST
Updated November 9, 2017 3:02 a.m. EST
BEIJING (CNN) — First lady Melania Trump has arrived in Beijing, the third and final leg of her trip to Asia with President Donald Trump, who will continue on to Vietnam and the Philippines.
Since starting her trip to Asia on Sunday, Trump has spoken publicly once during the trip. But she's embraced the role of a gracious guest, accompanying the President to his speeches, state visits and formal dinners, and sitting in the front row for both of his joint press conference appearances.
The first lady has also spent much of her time meeting and sharing culture with her counterparts.
Trump learned about the history of pearls in Japan with Akie Abe, wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the two joined a fourth-grade class for a calligraphy lesson, showcasing a warm rapport. In South Korea, she had a traditional tea with Madam Kim Jung-sook, wife of President Moon Jae-in, who also joined her outside with the schoolchildren.
On Wednesday, she will be welcomed by yet another counterpart: China's Peng Liyuan.
Joined by their husbands, Trump and Peng will tour the Forbidden City and have dinner Wednesday evening in Beijing.
Trump has a busy schedule for the remainder of her trip. On Thursday, the Trumps will participate in a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, then she will attend a spousal program. Later in the day, she will meet and greet Americans at the US Embassy alongside the President, then attend a state dinner and cultural performance. Friday, Trump will have some time to play the role of tourist, visiting a zoo to interact with giant pandas and tour the Great Wall of China before returning to the United States.
Trump first welcomed Peng to the United States in April; the two visited a middle school in West Palm Beach and joined their husbands for dinner at Mar-a-Lago.
Among the elite club of the wives of world leaders, the two have much in common.
Both have had successful careers in their own right. Trump was a model before meeting her husband and Peng is a folk singer who once regularly performed in front of millions of TV audiences. She was, in fact, more famous than her husband until Xi's rise to power in the mid-2000s.
They draw parallels on family as well: both women are also not their husband's first wives; Trump is the President's third wife, Peng is Xi's second wife. And both take care to shield their children from the public limelight.
As they navigate their husbands' time in office, each have carved out causes to champion. Peng focuses on promoting Chinese culture and tradition and is also a UN goodwill ambassador on HIV/AIDS, recently filming a public service announcement on the topic. Trump's platform centers around helping children, including preventing childhood bullying and combating the opioid epidemic.
The women are also both considered fashion icons. Peng tries to highlight dresses by Chinese designers, often with a traditional flair. The US first lady, meanwhile, has defined her own kind of fashion diplomacy, opting for bold, high fashion choices. She's not necessarily adhering to the guidelines of previous first ladies, who have highlighted American designers at home and the designers of their host countries while abroad.
They also both try to stay out of their husbands' politics. For Peng, unwritten Communist Party rule dictates no spousal interference in politics since former leader Mao Zedong's wife tried to grab power during the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s.
Peng, however, is a Communist Party member and was a civilian officer at the People's Liberation Army. In 1989, the Chinese first lady performed for Chinese troops who crushed pro-democracy protesters in the Tiananmen Square massacre. Photos of the performance resurfaced following Xi's elevation to the top of Chinese leadership, causing embarrassment to the authorities.