Monday, 28 September 2015

Peng Liyuan the next Soong Mei-ling?

Peng Liyuan sitting with poise at the United Nations in New York
China's First Lady Peng Liyuan is fast proving herself to be President Xi Jinping's secret weapon in charming the world with her soft power.

This was evident in Peng's speech at the Global Education First Initiative event at the United Nations where she spoke in English. There is debate about how fluent her English was, as she spoke slowly to ensure she enunciated each word clearly, but it's not often we hear senior officials -- let alone a senior leader's wife -- speak in English.

Peng's soft touch has resonated with people in the West...
Is it because as a professional singer she is used to being in front of a large audience? Or is it all a performance to her, wearing makeup and dressing in stylish clothes?

We'd like to take this opportunity to compare her to Soong Mei-ling, who was the wife of Chiang Kai-shek.

She was the Wesleyan College-educated daughter of a businessman, who made his money printing Chinese-language bibles, and married in 1927. the Generalissimo's spokesperson, visiting the United States many times to lobby for the Nationalist's war effort.

... much like Madame Chiang Kai-shek with General Stilwell
Madam Chiang is also best known for being the first Chinese national and second woman to address both houses of the US Congress.

Meanwhile Peng, who is UNESCO's Special Envoy for the Advancement of Girls' and Women's Education, talked about growing up in a small village and how her father took it upon himself to teach villagers how to read newspapers and write their names.

"As his daughter, I know what education means to the people, especially those without it," said Peng, who said being a beneficiary of China's progress in education had enabled her to become a soprano and professor of music.

Madame Chiang with Eleanor Roosevelt
While they are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, both are achieving the same ends, trying to influence the West.

Right now Peng is doing a pretty good job showing the world that China isn't just about a rising superpower, but that it's got some class and pizzazz.

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