Peng Liyuan, who’s warming up to her role as China’s “First Lady” — a term that, lest you forget, has basically never been applied to the wives of Chinese leaders — is currently traveling with her husband in Africa as part of Xi Jinping’s first overseas trip as Chinese head of state, and it’d be an understatement to say she’s kind of stealing the show. The New York Times called her “glamorous, fashionable and one of her nation’s best-known singers,” while reminding us that she “became a household name in China well before her husband,” thanks to her career as a People’s Liberation Singer beginning at the age of 18. The Brits are taking turns chirping about the “Kate Middleton effect,” with the Telegraph noting, “Footage of Peng Liyuan, 49, simply dressed in a black coat and light blue scarf triggered first lady fever in the Chinese media and on the internet.” The AP and CNN both used the word “glamorous” in their stories. And Chinese Internet — don’t get me started; there’s Sina (above pic), People’s Daily calling her “charming” in its headline, and CNTV covering her trip to a Russian orphanage, et alia.
None of this surprises us, even as, last fall, Sina Weibo was actually blocking searches for Peng Liyuan. As early as last November, we were extolling the virtues of unleashing the megawatt-star-power potential of Peng. Allie Jaynes wrote, “You’d think having a singer babe on your team who devotes her spare time to anti-smoking campaigns and helping earthquake victims would be a windfall for the party’s propagandists.” Oh, and don’t forget working on tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS issues, because she does those, too. Peng is a political boon and a dream for advisers, publicists, and narrative-makers from Zhongnanhai to Capitol Hill. What further proof do you need of her ability to charm and captivate?
Glad you asked. Glance upon the following video, from a PLA performance in Moscow on June 20, 2005. The Chinese newscaster stops talking at the 47-second mark, at which point you can watch Peng electrify the crowd. Oh, she sings in Russian. Few in the audience, one imagines, knew Xi Jinping in 2005, but after this show, most of them probably remembered Peng Liyuan.
More than half a million people have watched this video on Youku since it was posted three days ago. Star power. Only a fool would fail to bottle it for use in the one arena — the biggest of them all, politics — in which China desperately lacks personality.
I wouldn’t call politics the only arena in which China lacks personality… there’s a reason there was so much emphasis on ‘soft power’.
As long as she keeps the plain and classy look. There’s too many gaudy celebrities in China.
They ban Facebook in China and she’s in Beijing posting updates on her own profile.
Agreed. Well said!
I thought the no-name Chinese made handbag was a nice touch in her very stylish landing outfit. This at a time when there is so much false pride attached to girls getting Guess and suchlike expensie garbage, retailed for thousands of dollars in the West, as bonuses with their minimum minimum salaries making the damn things.
To add, it is not to say her clothes weren’t expensive, but they don’t reek Nouveau Riche opulence and corruption. The brand of her jacket is still an expensive, but a Ready-Made designed by a good Chinese designer who designs with Chinese sensibilities. The studio’s clothes also show humility and avant-gardeness in design. Many Party elites spout out how proud the Chinese should be of their culture but run around covered with as much European brand names as they can. Peng is putting her money where her mouth is, not only to prove she’s different but that a Chinese brand can be worthy of the international stage. Peng and whoever helped her pick out the outfit should be made head of PR. Xi should be greatful such a sensible woman married him.
*I sound like an overzealous fashion magazine writer -.-