Press Unwelcome At First Lady's Taxpayer Funded "Cultural Exchange" Family Trip To China

The White House will not say how much it [the China trip]will cost.

Next Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama, along with her mother and two children, is traveling to China for a cultural exchange with the people of China, but reporters are persona non grata on the taxpayer-funded trip. No reporters are traveling with the first lady, and she does not plan to give interviews while there.

As reported by The NY Times:

Mrs. Obama is drawing scrutiny for her decision to travel with her mother and her two daughters, who are on spring break, bringing to mind a vacation she took to Spain in 2010 with her daughter Sasha and some friends. She and her entourage paid for their lodging and entertainment. But the security cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, and the trip was criticized as lavish.

Some conservative commentators are calling the China trip a junket. The White House will not say how much it will cost.

Tina Tchen, Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff and a first-generation Chinese-American, said a multigenerational visit would be appreciated by the Chinese, who value tradition.

Mrs. Obama’s aides describe the visit as a cultural exchange unencumbered by official talks at the presidential level. “Her focus on people-to-people relations, her focus on education and youth empowerment is one that we believe will resonate in China,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser.

Mrs. Obama will be promoting educational exchange programs, emphasizing the need for American and Chinese youths to understand each other’s cultures as their economic fortunes become further intertwined. About 200,000 Chinese are studying in the United States, more than from any other country, compared with about 20,000 Americans studying in China, White House officials said. The Obama administration is trying to raise that number.

"It's a very tightly controlled schedule, and there is no media and no interviews, so it's entirely possible," said Anita McBride, who was Laura bush's chief of staff and now runs a program at American university on first ladies. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to prevent it from going in that direction."