Chinese leaders` wives step into limelight with foreign tours

"Wife diplomacy" has become the focus of China`s new leadership as Cheng Hong, the well educated wife of Premier Li Keqiang who has kept a low profile so far, stepped into the limelight by accompanying him on a high-profile Africa tour.

PTI| Last Updated: May 05, 2014, 13:36 PM IST

Beijing: "Wife diplomacy" has become the focus of China`s new leadership as Cheng Hong, the well educated wife of Premier Li Keqiang who has kept a low profile so far, stepped into the limelight by accompanying him on a high-profile Africa tour.

Her debut in public diplomacy was kept under wraps until she emerged with her husband out of the plane yesterday to greet the leaders and people at the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

She is the second high-profile spouse to get initiated into "wife diplomacy" by the new set of leaders departing from the past practice of keeping the families of the leaders out of the limelight.
The first to start the practice was President Xi Jinping, who took his famous wife Peng Liyuan, a well accomplished folk-singer and a household name in China for her television opera success, to his first foreign tour after taking over as President last year.

Since then Peng became part of China`s public diplomacy as she recently hosted Michelle Obama and her family for a week-long tour of China to promote good US-China ties.

It is now the turn of Cheng, 57, who skipped Li`s visit to India last year, his first abroad to show the importance Beijing attached to ties with New Delhi.

Such was the secrecy shrouding the identity of Cheng that she came to limelight in the Chinese official media only yesterday after the state-run Xinhua News Agency for the first time released her photograph and a brief biography besides her picture of arrival at Addis Ababa.
Cheng is an English professor at the Capital University of Economics and Business?and also a member of the university`s academic board.
Cheng also studied English at Peking University, where she met her husband, premier Li, who studied economics.

Commenting on Cheng`s debut, Zhouli Jiali, Lecturer with the department of diplomacy and foreign affairs said wives of senior officials often attend activities on the topics of women, children and charity during foreign visits, which is helpful to fully show country`s national image.

"Wife diplomacy" contributes to public diplomacy which aims to increase soft power and gain a reputation for a country in the international community, he told state-run Global Times.