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Michelle Obama plans first visit to China this month

WASHINGTON--U.S. first lady Michelle Obama plans a weeklong solo visit to China this month that includes meetings with China's first lady and high school and university students.

It will be her first visit to the Asian economic powerhouse.

In an announcement Monday on the White House blog, the first lady says a China visit is important because it is the most populous country in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people, and plays an important role on the world stage.

The White House says Mrs. Obama will travel from March 19-26. She will spend several days in the capital of Beijing, followed by stops in the central city of Xian and the southwestern city of Chengdu. Her schedule includes a meeting with Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Mrs. Obama missed meeting China's first lady last June when the newly installed Xi, accompanied by his wife, traveled to Southern California for a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama. Mrs. Obama stayed in Washington for personal reasons.

In China this month, Mrs. Obama will focus on the power and importance of education, including in her own life, during visits to a high school and a university in Beijing, and a high school in Chengdu.

In China, she will be accompanied by daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Robinson, who lives at the White House. President Barack Obama will not be on the trip. He departs the U.S. later that week for stops in Europe and Saudi Arabia.

Mrs. Obama is encouraging students across the U.S. to follow her trip on social media and the White House website, where she will post a daily travel blog.

In preparation for the trip, she scheduled a visit Tuesday to a Washington charter elementary school with a Chinese-immersion, international baccalaureate program. Mrs. Obama will hear a presentation from sixth-graders who visited China last year and visit with pre-kindergarten students who are learning Chinese.

In her post Monday, the first lady said countries today are no longer isolated and are facing many of the same challenges, whether it is to provide students with a good education, combat hunger, poverty and disease, or address threats like climate change.

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