By Edward Luce, FT Washington bureau chief, travelling with President Barack Obama in Shanghai

From a distance, global diplomacy can appear more glamourous than it sometimes is. On Monday, in a very rainy and overcast Shanghai, Barack Obama could be forgiven for wishing he was elsewhere. His first public event of the day was a meeting with Yu Zhengsheng, the city’s Communist party secretary.

After the presidential motorcade sped along Shanghai’s eerily empty streets and seemingly endless urban jungle of skyscrapers, Mr Obama sat down to what might politely be described as a ponderous exchange of pleasantries with Mr Yu.

The US president was not alone. Among the other American officials seated in a line of chairs next to Mr Obama were Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, Jim Jones, the national security advisor, Lawrence Summers, White House senior economic advisor, and Kurt Campbell, the state department’s Asia man.

“Thank you so much for your hospitality,” said Mr Obama. “This is my first visit to Shanghai.”

“Shanghai is a city that witnessed the progress of the diplomatic relations between China and the United States over the past three decades,” Mr Yu shot back. Read more

By Geoff Dyer, FT China bureau chief

If the White House believes President Barack Obama’s charisma can be a foreign policy asset, that theory is about to face its toughest test in China where he arrives on Sunday night, the latest stop in his inaugural Asia tour.

Perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, China has been immune to the popular love-in that surrounded the Obama election. For sure, young Chinese like the president – they think he is cool and they understand the symbolism of an African-American in the White House. But they have not been caught up in the hero-worship witnessed in, say, parts of Europe. Read more

By Edward Luce, FT Washington bureau chief, travelling with President Barack Obama in Singapore

Apec summits are normally remembered for the silly photo-ops of world leaders lined up in the local costumes supplied by the hosts. In Singapore’s case, this was a specially designed Peranakan-inspired blouse with a mandarin collar.

On Sunday, Mr Obama told his fellow leaders that he was “looking forward to seeing you all decked out in flowered shirts and grass skirts” in 2011 when he hosts an Apec summit in Honolulu.

But this year’s summit will also be recalled for a spying spat between Chile and Peru, which prompted Alan Garcia, Peru’s leader, to leave the summit early and fly home in a huff.

Mr Garcia’s very un-Asian tantrum followed the arrest on Saturday of a senior Peruvian air force officer on charges that he was a spy on Chile’s payroll. Read more

By Mure Dickie, FT Japan bureau chief

Foreign travel is always a learning experience. The first Asia tour as US president for the usually hyper-capable Barack Obama is a good chance for him to master one important skill needed for diplomacy in the region: how to say the name of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Read more

By Edward Luce, FT Washington bureau chief, in Tokyo

One of the benefits of having a multiracial president is that he can identify with people all over the place. Barack Obama has that in endless dollops – the boy from Hawaii, who grew up in Indonesia and made Chicago his home. Read more