First Lady Michelle Obama's in China — her third trip abroad without the president. (Via The White House)
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof even suggested the move was a sign of weakness and fear of scrutiny.
The First Lady's office says the trip is to promote educational exchange programs — trying to get more American students to study abroad in China.
And officials say despite tense relations between the U.S. and China, Mrs. Obama's trip will be decidedly non-political. (Via The New York Times)
"A cultural exchange and not political."
But calling it non-political doesn't mean there aren't politics. (Via NBC)
CBS notes conservative critics in particular are suggesting the First Lady — who's taking her two daughters and mother — is merely on a taxpayer-funded vacation. (Via CBS)
Like The Daily Caller's Neil Munro — who points out the White House won't say how much the trip is costing.
And reminding readers a 2010 trip the First Lady took to Spain with her daughters cost taxpayers an estimated $467,600. (Via NTDTV)
But for its part China seems to be looking forward to the trip. A piece from state-run Xinhua is effusive, reading in part: "Given that first ladies are unique ambassadors for the United States, the trip stands out as a stroke of 'gentle diplomacy' on the part of Washington."
China's First Lady Peng Liyuan is hosting Mrs. Obama. Peng is something of a celebrity and fashion icon — often called China's Michelle Obama. (Via Link TV)
The First Lady's trip to China is expected to last a week. She'll visit Beijing, Xi'an and a panda preserve in Chengdu in the country's south. There aren't currently any plans for her to meet officially with Chinese President Xi Jinping.