Culture and scenery: China’s first couple makes most of their ‘drop-by’ visit to US

Following a better than expected summit, Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan made goodwill visits in Florida and took a scenic drive in Alaska during a refuelling stop

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 8:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 11:24pm

Following “better-than-expected” results from the Mar-a-Lago meeting with US President Donald Trump, President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan wasted no time in delivering goodwill to the American public and discussing trade opportunities.

China’s first lady paid a visit to the Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida, accompanied by her US counterpart Melania Trump on Friday afternoon, taking in several music performances and chatting with students.

Later, on their way home to Beijing, the couple made a sightseeing tour along a scenic coastal highway in Alaska during a refuelling stop for their aircraft.

During her school visit in Florida, which lasted less than an hour, Peng and Trump listened to 80 schoolgirls perform the song Astonishing from the musical Little Women, and another performance by the school’s symphonic band, the Palm Beach Post, a local newspaper, reported.

Peng was a celebrated folk singer in China before becoming the first lady.

Peng and Trump also visited a civics class, where students made posters about international conflicts, including the Cuban missile crisis, the Korean War and World War II, the Associated Press reported.

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During the class, an eight-grade American Chinese boy studying Chinese heritage chatted to Peng in Mandarin, and asked for a photograph with her, to which she obliged, the Palm Beach Post reported.

The boy was born in the US, but his parents came from Shandong, Peng’s home province. Peng told the boy she was delighted to see that, despite growing up in the US, he still spoke his parent’s mother tongue, according to the report.

In Alaska, Xi was welcomed on the tarmac by the state governor, Bill Wallace. Xi’s 24-vehicle motorcade then set off down the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm, a waterway that opens into the Gulf of Alaska. They stopped and got out of their cars at Beluga Point, a rocky outpost featuring stunning vistas of the snow-capped mountains and rushing waves. The waters are home to the endangered Beluga whale.

The highway was shut down in both directions for half an hour during Xi’s tour.

Back in Anchorage, Xi had a business meeting and dinner with Walker at the Hotel Captain Cook before returning to the airport for his return trip to Beijing.

During the meeting, Walker discussed with Xi a liquefied natural gas export project aimed at Asian markets, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

China is Alaska’s leading trade partner, importing more than US$1 billion in Alaskan products in 2016.