Now a private citizen, former President Barack Obama re-emerged on the global stage Tuesday as he opened a three-country tour that includes meetings with the leaders of China and India, just as President Donald Trump courts those same world powers. During a five-day trip, Obama will mix paid speeches with foreign leader meetings and even a town hall event for young people, the signature event that Obama became known for around the world during his eight years in office. He’ll finish the trip in France, where he’ll give one of several speeches planned during the trip. The tour continues a longstanding tradition of former US presidents traveling overseas after leaving office, especially as they work to attract donations and other support for their foundations, libraries and presidential centers.
But Obama’s trip may garner particular attention, given that many foreign countries are still uncertain about Trump’s foreign policy and may look to his predecessor to help explain America’s current direction. “Barack Obama is the great explainer to the rest of the world of what the heck is going on in America,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “He’s a calming influence in a world that’s teetering on frenzy right now. Obama arrives and it reminds them of old-style diplomacy and the dignity of statesmanship.”
Obama arrived yesterday in Shanghai, where he was to speak at a business conference before traveling to Beijing to speak at an education event. He also planned to meet there with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who hosted Trump for a high-profile visit only a few weeks earlier. Obama’s office said they planned to discuss the global economy, climate change and other issues. Then the former president is off to India, where he’ll meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, give another speech and hold a town hall meeting hosted by Obama’s foundation.
Throughout his presidency, Obama often used the popular events in foreign countries to take questions about everything from politics and policy to his personal story and pop culture. Obama’s office said roughly 280 young leaders planned to attend. Obama will give a final speech Saturday in Paris before returning to the United States. Aides didn’t rule out the possibility that he could also see President Emmanuel Macron, whose presidential campaign Obama endorsed, while in France.
Aides to the former president declined to say who was paying for the trip, but he’ll be compensated for the speeches. The trip comes as Trump is aggressively pushing China’s leaders to cut off North Korea economically over its nuclear weapons program. Obama will also be in India just days after Trump’s daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump. The first daughter gave a speech Tuesday at a business conference that was widely disseminated on Indian television.