November 16, 2005: Headlines: Friends: : Sacramento Bee: Maria Shriver in China

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Maria Shriver in China

Maria Shriver in China

In China, Schwarzenegger and Shriver are traveling largely separate paths - much as they did during this year's special election campaign. "A lot of people don't understand that about our relationship, but I can tell you, it makes it interesting when we sit around in the Jacuzzi at night and talk and when the kids are already asleep. ... 'Hey, what did you do? What did you learn?' I love that," he said.

Maria Shriver in China

Shriver has own agenda in Beijing

As her husband talks trade, state's first lady visits a women's center

By Gary Delsohn -- Bee Capitol Burea
u
Published 2:15 am PST Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Story appeared on Page A1 of The Bee
BEIJING - On his mission to China, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is busy meeting business and government leaders, trying to drum up commerce for California.

First lady Maria Shriver has other ideas. Take day two of the trip:

Schwarzenegger raced from an energy forum in the morning to a lunch with Chinese and American business leaders. That was followed by closed "round tables" highlighting issues such as energy and intellectual-property rights. He also found time for some self-promotion, discussing bodybuilding in an interview with the government-controlled China Central Television network, which has an audience that tops 400 million.

Sell It Yourself
Shriver, meanwhile, spent 90 minutes listening to women tell their stories at the first nonprofit organization in China that helps victims of domestic violence.

Someone at the session said she had information about AIDS in China, so Shriver met with her. She then informed aide Donna Lucas that she wanted to meet patients who, like her father - Sargent Shriver - have Alzheimer's disease. On Thursday, she plans to visit a Shanghai orphanage.

In China, Schwarzenegger and Shriver are traveling largely separate paths - much as they did during this year's special election campaign.

Even Schwarzenegger admitted that his wife was not very interested in his China agenda.

"My agenda is not geared around women's equality or anything like that," he said. "It's more about trade. This is not going to interest her to talk about intellectual-property protection. It's not going to interest her to talk about selling more wine. That's not her thing. ...

"A lot of people don't understand that about our relationship, but I can tell you, it makes it interesting when we sit around in the Jacuzzi at night and talk and when the kids are already asleep. ... 'Hey, what did you do? What did you learn?' I love that," he said.

Aides said Shriver will be more visible and involved in her husband's re-election bid.

Lucas said that Shriver didn't participate extensively in Schwarzenegger's state finance initiative campaign in 2004.

"So it's not like there was a lot of precedent for her to be involved in the special election," she said.

She also said that Shriver is joining Schwarzenegger at several functions this week in China, including planning to model a dress at a show today highlighting California fashion, another event on the governor's agenda.

But in China, Schwarzenegger is doing his thing, and Shriver, a liberal Democrat who had little interest in the issues the Republican governor pushed in the election, is doing hers.

"We never got into the issue thing at all," Schwarzenegger said of his failed initiatives. "It was just the general thing. She didn't say, 'Don't do it.' She was much more, you know, 'If I didn't know you, I would just vote across the board 'no' on everything.' "

He said Shriver warned him that "people don't want to go to the polls."

It was a " 'You-figure-it-out-up-there (in Sacramento)' type of thing. I said, 'Oh, she maybe just thinks she's in Maryland. What does she know about California politics type of thing?' It was more like that," he said.

Shriver said through an aide that she didn't want to talk about the special election. But her husband explained his wife's independent ways as "more like an upbringing thing."

"Her mother always had her things, and her father always had his things," Schwarzenegger said. "They both were having interesting lives, but both had to do with helping people and all that."

He said the special election was hard on Shriver, however, especially the negative ads.

"She had to do a lot of explaining to the kids," he said. "I'm not at home, so it's easier for me. It's tougher for her when the kids come home and say. 'Hey, so-and-so said this.' "

At the event on domestic violence, Shriver said she was satisfying her curiosity and trying to draw attention to a cause that is often not well understood, particularly in China.

An estimated 30 percent of the nation's 600 million women may be domestic violence victims, she was told by Wang Xingjuan, the 75-year-old founder of Maple Women's Center, and it's very difficult for them to find help.

"In my work as first lady," Shriver said, "I've tried to focus on what I call Minervas in everyday life, women who are warriors in everyday life, who get things done, who turn their dreams into reality, which is why I wanted to come here."

She said she found it interesting that China's first nonprofit group dedicated to the cause didn't start until 1988.

"I think many women in the United States don't know a lot about the plight of everyday women in China, and I think they would find it very interesting how young this organization is," she said.

Kevin Johnson, a California Highway Patrol officer assigned to her security detail, said Shriver loves to gather new facts.

"She's always sponging up information," he said.

Shriver left her job as a television journalist with NBC News last year, saying she couldn't maintain her journalistic credentials while serving as an active first lady.

Since then, she has been outspoken behind the scenes about the workings of her husband's administration while pursuing her own projects publicly, including a drive to raise money to create a new California history and women's museum in Sacramento.

Tim Shriver, her brother and head of the Special Olympics, another cause she is promoting in China, said she's always had her own agenda.

"Maria, from the time she was young, found ways to do her own thing. She's most happy when she can carve out a space that feels good to her, makes her feel both good about herself and what she's contributing," he said.

"For her to be in the presence of someone who's doing something heroic is inspiring to her, particularly for women," he said. "We were talking on the way over here what enormous challenges women face. Their own perceptions of the struggles they face - she feels that's overwhelming to so many women. She's out there trying to be an advocate for them because I think she feels those struggles herself."

About the writer:

* The Bee's Gary Delsohn can be reached at (916) 326-5545 or gdelsohn@sacbee.com.





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