I’ll admit, I got more than a little excited about this…
After becoming China’s president in March, Mr. Xi Jinping has made playing footsie with President Barack Obama one of his first priorities. The strained relationship between China and America has become even more so over trade disputes, allegations of Chinese cyber espionage and America’s decision to assert itself more deeply into the Asia-Pacific region — a move the Chinese government is not at all happy about.
However, amidst all the political jostling between the head-of-states, both American and Chinese citizens will get to delight in the prospects of their significant others, Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan, duelling it out for title of “Best First Lady, Ever!”
Of course we’re not talking fisticuffs of any kind (Michelle is indeed in great shape, but Peng was an actual soldier in the Chinese Liberation Army!), but more a competition of style, grace, formidability and political charm. In my opinion, up til now Michelle has had no 21st century competition on any of these fronts, but I’m getting the impression that Mrs Xi Jingping is going to be a strong contender.
And a charmer she is.
She’s taken center-stage during Mr. Xi’s tour of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, exchanging high fives with youngsters and trying her hand at playing steel drums for delighted audiences.
Liyuan has accepted offers from China’s Ministry of Health and WHO in Geneva to become a “goodwill ambassador” in the promotion of HIV/AIDS awareness, the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis and the support of antismoking health campaigns.
The 50 y.0. Peng is also one of China’s most prominent folk singers, taking top billing at the country’s gala military concert at Chinese New Years for over 20 years. And as a former entertainer, it will be safe to conclude that she’ll know the power of just the right wardrobe!
China’s leaders have kept their wives discreetly in the background ever since the disastrous rise and fall of Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s fourth wife, Jiang Qing, who used her marriage to Mao to seize political power in China in the 60’s and 70’s. President Xi’s election marks a game change from the status quo.
The media has played Michelle’s Obama’s absence at the recent meet-and-greet with President Jinping, Liyuan and President Obama, as a snub of China’s new First Lady. I think this assertion is totally ludicrous and totally uncharacteristic of Mrs. O, who exhibits nothing but total dedication and loyalty to her husband’s political career. However, she has stated and made it clear on more than one occasion, that she is ‘First Mother’ first and foremost to her daughters. You’ve gotta respect that.
No official word yet on when the two First Ladies will “face-off”, but you can bet Nielsen ratings will be off the charts if they do.