Peng Liyuan, the wife of the pending Chinese President, Xi Jinping will purportedly be taking a more active role on behalf the PRC. The Financial Times of March 13, 2013 (see: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d83a8ed4-8bbf-11e2-8fcf-00144feabdc0.html#slide0) wrote a column on how the folk singer first lady will be part of the new President’s arsenal and a new personification of the Chinese government.
This approach is quite a departure from the past and in my view, a pretty good idea on a lot of levels. First of all, by having his wife travel with him he won’t hear her complaining about his travels. More importantly, putting a soft (and attractive) face on a government that has generally been labeled in less than flattering terms is a proven technique.
We live in a visual age. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other channels are the direct links to much of the world’s population. US Presidents have had mixed success in promoting their wives as alternative faces of America.
Michelle Obama has been a rousing champion for her husband and a credible, likeable and seemingly omnipresent alter ego. She has appeared on everything from children’s TV shows suck as “I Carly” to the Academy Awards. She is photogenic, strong and appealing, yet projects a ‘soft power image’.
Hillary Clinton on the other hand has faired far better since moving out from her husband’s shadow while the Bush wives never seemed to ruffle the airwaves.
If the new Chinese President is savvy enough to harness his wife’s star power and charisma, this may be an intelligence indicator that the strategic influence battle is about to be taken in a new direction.