WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama plans to leave for China with her daughters and her mother Wednesday with hopes of advancing the relationship between the United States and China and promoting education.

Peng Liyuan, wife of President Xi Jinping, is expected to greet the family on Friday and accompany Obama on a school visit.

Emphasizing the mutual importance of education for China and the United States is “vital for the competitiveness of our U.S. global economy,” said Tina Tchen, chief of staff to the first lady.

Although Obama will avoid contentious issues such as human rights and trade during her week-long visit, telling her own story of beating the odds will bring a powerful human rights message, said Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser.

A graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, Obama will share her story at a high school in Chengdu, a city in Southwestern China.

“What the first lady really brings is the power of her own story and the power of American values, which is completely interwoven with our commitment to human rights,” Rhodes said in a conference call with reporters.

At Peking University, she will also emphasize the importance of studying abroad and cultural exchanges to American and Chinese students. She’ll explain the important role the two countries could play in each other’s success.

The trip, her third international trek as first lady without her husband, will include visits to Beijing and othercities where she expects to meet with Chinese students. She also plans to tour China’s cultural sites such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Chengdu Panda Base, which houses 50 pandas.

Daughters Sasha and Malia and mother Marian Robinson will join her.

Rhodes said the fact that three generations of a family are traveling together is significant to Chinese culture, and he expects the Chinese will appreciate it.

“This is a great opportunity for the Obama family to experience that and for the Chinese to see that in an American family,” Rhodes said.

First ladies Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton addressed more contentious issues on their visits to China. Laura Bush spoke out against the Myanmar military’s treatment of its citizens when traveling with President George W. Bush in 2008 for the Olympic Games. She even flew to the Thai border with Myanmar – formerly known as Burma — to meet with refugees.

Hillary Clinton made a famous declaration about women’s rights at a United Nation’s women’s conference in Beijing in 1995.