Monday, March 25, 2013

China’s First World First Lady

The popular media’s opinion is in: this past week’s lead story about China’s new leadership under President Xi Jinping had less to do with him and more to do with his better half, Peng Liyuan. One picture says it all. Here it is.

Two questions come to mind. Why did it take fifty years for China to have such an attractive, presentable first lady? And good god, is that a Tod’s bag she’s carrying?? The blogosphere was in overdrive last week trying to figure out what leather product she used to tote around her personal items when she accompanied her husband on their state visit to Russia. As it turns out, the bag and her smart-looking outfit were both created by a Chinese designer – Exception (as reported in For this, she can be further commended for having the keen sense to avoid stepping in PR doo-doo while her husband wages a domestic war against luxury products for government officials.

Such is the staid, faceless look of China’s political leadership (now that Bo Xilai is out of favor) that a hottie first lady, a former singer who can rival the likes of Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, can steal the media thunder from a geopolitically strategic visit with President Putin. But perhaps a little historical context would be useful. Below are pictures of her predecessors.

Hu Jintao and wife
Deng Xiaoping and wife
Jiang Zemin and wife

Need I say more? At the risk of seeming to have a sensibility no deeper than tabloid papparazzi, I have to admit that I get why the Chinese public is in such a tizzy about Ms. Peng. After all, the country has a bit of a history deifying certain personalities, whether supreme party leaders or emperors. In this age of lightning-fast internet coverage and worship of superficial appearances, perhaps it’s time for another media empress to step forth to help soften the starchiness of China’s current crop of leaders.   

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