There has been much talk lately about Michelle Obama’s visit to China. Some have criticized the First Lady’s trip for being light on the substance at first, but Mrs. Obama has surprised everyone by speaking out in support of minorities and free speech.
In a meeting with Chinese high school students, Mrs. Obama highlighted America’s belief in having “the right to say what we think and worship as we choose,” but made sure to highlight that the United States’ road to equality has been long and bumpy.
This seemingly simple speech highlights the importance of admitting imperfections in the world of diplomacy. It may be tempting to want to portray the United States as perfect nation to which all countries should aspire to be, but it is more productive to paint a picture of the US as being flawed and human just like everyone else.
In a country such as China, which has had a complicated relationship with the US in the past and present, it would have been detrimental for Mrs. Obama to paint a picture of the US without imperfection, but it would have served only to make us appear cockier than we already do on the international stage.
The White House has emphasized the “people to people” exchanges that have happened during the trip, highlighting yet another aspect of diplomacy that cannot be forgotten.