Beijing: The high profile debut of China`s glamorous first lady and star singer Peng Liyuan, accompanying President Xi Jinping on his first tour abroad, left Chinese netizens "swooning", giving a big push for Beijing`s attempts to project its soft power, official media here said.
"Peng set Web users swooning after she and Xi touched down in Russia on Friday, triggering around 25,000 microblog posts and more than one million comments on Sina Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter)," state-run Global Times said.
In stark contrast to Web users` usual scepticism reserved for government officials, the first lady has won near-unanimous praise for her glamour and poise, it said.
Peng, 50, is China`s most famous singer specialising in folk and patriotic songs. The soprano was being projected as competitor in fashion and glamour to US first lady Michele Obama by Chinese public.
As a renowned military vocalist, she has performed on television for many years and sent her songs to Chinese servicemen posted in various frontiers and remote islands.
Peng visited a Moscow boarding school for orphans and children estranged from their parents on Saturday during Xi`s Russia visit a move analysts say delivered a "big push" to Beijing`s soft power projection.
"I represent thousands of mothers in China to be here visiting you," Peng said, after watching dance and acrobatics performances by students.
Wang Lijiu, an expert of Russian studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Times Peng`s visit strengthens China`s soft power, including its culture and image.
"China realises that first-lady diplomacy is a vital component of public diplomacy," Wang said.
"As a renowned singer, Peng can publicise Chinese culture and deliver a big push to the country`s soft power."
"She represents the China image: beautiful, graceful and generous," one microblogger wrote. "Her outfit was gorgeous," another mused.
"She looked professional and solemn, yet feminine." The first lady even sparked a fashion frenzy with her homegrown dark overcoat worn as she disembarked from the plane with her husband in Russia.
Searches on Chinese online retail giant taobao.Com for "Peng Liyuan style" currently yield more 100 products, including coats, handbags and shoes, with prices ranging from 30 to 1,200 yuan (USD 4.80 - USD 193.15), the Global Times report said.
Xi, 59, had married Peng after divorcing his first wife.