Fact Check

Michelle Obama Waves Communist Flags

Does a photograph show First Lady Michelle Obama waving Communist flags in China?

Published Apr 1, 2014

Claim:   Photograph shows First Lady Michelle Obama waving Communist flags in China.


Examples:   [Collected via Facebook, April 2014]

First Lady Michelle 0bama waving red communist flags during her tax payer-funded trip to China. What would you like to say to the woman that is representing America? Think we should send her to Twatwaffle Island?


Origins:   In March 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama traveled with her daughters and mother on a week-long vacation/goodwill visit to China, an event that proved to be tremendously popular to citizens of that nation:

According to a tally by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, photos, videos and stories about Michelle Obama's visit to China garnered more than 1 billion page views.

It's probably not too far-fetched of a notion, according to Cheng Li, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution.

"This is really Michelle fever in China," he said.

Cheng said Obama and her family — her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters, Malia and Sasha, traveled with her — showed respect for Chinese traditions and deftly weaved in diplomacy with lighter moments in a way that made the Chinese want to see what she was doing and where she was going.

While in China, Michelle Obama delivered a speech on the value of unfettered Internet access and free speech:

Michelle Obama has declared that access to the internet should be a universal right, in a rare and controversial foray into the world of international politics during a cultural visit to China.

The US first lady risked upsetting her hosts in Beijing by declaring access to information as a birthright. During a speech at Peking University's Stanford Centre, she called

for greater freedoms while refraining from a direct attack on the controls over information in China.

The so-called "great firewall of China" blocks access to internet sites deemed sensitive, while a vast censorship machine swiftly deletes content considered objectionable. Twitter and Facebook are both blocked.

Obama told a crowd of about 200 students, most of whom were from the US: "It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the internet and through the media. My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens, and it's not always easy. But I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

She added: "When it comes to expressing yourself freely, and worshipping as you choose, and having open access to information — we believe those are universal rights that are the birthright of every person on this planet."

During her visit to China, Michelle Obama was photographed holding red banners (as shown above), an image that was later widely circulated via social media out of context, accompanied by criticisms that it portrayed the First Lady "waving red communist flags." Although red flags have been used as symbol of communism since the 1870s, and the national flag of China (like that of the former Communist USSR) is predominantly red in design, the red banners that Michelle Obama was pictured waving in China were not Chinese/communist flags or other overt political symbols but rather accessories employed by a troupe of traditional Chinese folk dancers whose performance the First Lady joined:

Michelle Obama gamely joined in with a troupe of folk dancers as she visited the Chinese city of Xi'an.

The First Lady swayed to the music, having earlier accepted an invitation to jump rope and tested out her shuttlecock-kicking skills.

Crowds three or four deep strained for a glimpse of the first family, according to a pool report.

Last updated:   1 April 2014

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags

Read More

a Member

Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience.


Ad-Free Browsing on Snopes.com
Members-Only Newsletter
Cancel Anytime