The Michelle Obama of China?

 The Michelle Obama of China?

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Peng Liyuan, China’s new First Lady.

Ever heard of Peng Liyuan? Watch out, she may soon become a household name. In a stark departure from regimes past, incoming Chinese President Xi Jinping is carving out an important role for his wife Peng Liyuan. Is she the new PR weapon for China?

China’s First Lady, Ms. Peng will have her own speaking engagement at an upcoming conference for the economic powerhouse nations of the new century.  The countries commonly known as BRICS include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Held in South Africa at the end of March, it’s an important venue for the new president and the promotion of Ms. Peng is a shrewd move.

A folk singer known for her passionate renditions of patriotic songs, Ms. Peng is far better known than her husband Mr. Xi, until his relatively recent political ascent. She is glamorous, reportedly a warm personality, and has already demonstrated her “issues-ability” in her role as Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization on HIV and tuberculosis. With this pedigree and the support of her husband, will she stand alongside Michelle Obama, Jackie Kennedy, and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy as one of the world’s most significant First Ladies?

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Peng Liyuan. She represents the “softer side” of China, a side that the world is curious to glimpse.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Charm charms. Even totalitarian states understand that in the age of smartphones and Twitter, they need to do more than issue propagandized press releases. Somehow they need to be likeable.  By giving his wife a profile, China’s new strongman is softening his own image and ultimately that of his country. In addition to giving his wife a PR platform, he has been recently quoted by the media joking with U.S. schoolchildren and kicking a football in Ireland. In old China, these media opportunities would not have happened, much less been publicized. This new president and his wife are already laying the groundwork for a PR charm offensive. Stay tuned.

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Christine Walton Brennan About Christine Walton Brennan

Christine Walton Brennan is the former Head of Corporate Communications for Marsh & McLennan Companies. She also managed media relations at banking giants UBS and Merrill Lynch, and was a journalist with Bloomberg News. In 2011, Christine embraced her midlife "realization" and is now a Registered Nurse in New York's Hudson Valley.

What is Your PR Verdict?

  1. Paul Marrone Paul Marrone says:

    PRV speculates too much on this one. Not sure that singing folk songs and being warm and attractive trumps ongoing violations of civil rights, as well as self-serving and unpromising trade issues, among other things, from the government of China. “Eye-candy” is not a wining reputation equity enhancer on the world stage. Michelle Obama has disappointed on first term promise to take on selected social issue. Tried juvenile weight loss and did not move needle, and has virtually stepped back from more aggressive involvement to become a good Mom (a good thing). Not speaking at any economic conferences of late. Jackie Kennedy, for those who remember her brief time as First Lady, was a fashion figure more noted for her designer dresses and hats. As for Madame Bruni, her nude pictures garnered more media than enhancing any French political equity or imporving any social issue. PRV is rather cynical and sexist in playing the alleged attractive “First Lady” card when only real actions to change inequality and negative governmental actions are the real issue and bear consequences on people. “F” for PRV on this one.

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