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First Lady Michelle Obama arrives in Beijing for week-long maiden visit to China

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BEIJING, CHINA - First lady Michelle Obama on Thursday kicked off her week-long maiden visit to China, which aims to strengthen education and cultural ties between the world's two giants.

Obama arrived at Beijing's international airport on Thursday afternoon with her mother and two daughters.

They were greeted by Chinese and other officials including U.S. ambassador to China, Max Baucus.

The week-long trip marks only the third foreign solo trip for Obama, who has cultivated a self-described "mom in chief" image, putting her energy into raising her daughters Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12, and signature domestic policy issues such as combating childhood obesity.

Obama is expected to spend Friday with China's charismatic first lady, Peng Liyuan, who is admired at home as both a glamorous songstress and fashion icon.

Besides Beijing, Obama will visit the western historic city of Xi'an and the southern city of Chengdu, where she will visit a panda preserve.

She also plans to visit American and Chinese students to promote education and cultural exchanges, and visit historical landmarks like the Great Wall of China.

A Xinhua commentary said the trip was "especially meaningful" given tensions in the U.S.-China relationship, including President Barack Obama's recent meeting with the Dalai Lama, whom China sees as a violent separatist.

Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama has put a high priority on bolstering the U.S. relationship with China.

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