China’s First Lady Sparks Fashion Frenzy

Could China's new first lady, Peng Liyuan, be the country's answer to Kate Middleton or Michelle Obama?

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REUTERS / Thomas Mukoya

Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan wave from their plane upon arriving at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 24, 2013

As President Xi Jinping and his wife set off on their first state visit, China’s online fashion world began to scrutinize the wardrobe of First Lady Peng Liyuan, a 50-year-old singer. The Beijing News ran a full page on Peng’s appointments in Moscow accompanied by a photograph of her dressed in a tunic and skirt, writes the Telegraph. Meanwhile, Peng’s attire went viral on the Internet as copies of the simple black coat she wore on the trip began to appear on the Web selling for $80. Chinese websites were quick to crack down on the First Lady’s popularity and reportedly blocked key words connected to Peng.

(MORE: Xi Visits Washington: What the U.S. Can Expect From China’s Next Leader)

China’s First Ladies have always had a tradition of keeping a low profile. Liu Yongqing, who was married to former President Hu Jintao, rarely appeared in public while her predecessor, Wang Yeping, also chose to step outside the spotlight. The Chinese public is now looking forward to seeing a lot more of the soprano who has performed in the Lincoln Center in New York City and the Vienna State Opera. “Because of her performer’s background and presence, I think she will definitely add points for her husband,” Tian Yimiao, an associate professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, told the New York Times. “It could make her into a diplomatic idol.”

As well as being compared to the Duchess of Cambridge, Peng has been likened by some to Michelle Obama — “modern, outgoing, intrigued by fashion,” according to the New York Times. There are hopes that Peng, who is a U.N. ambassador for health, may give a speech on AIDS during her trip to South Africa. Peng could be the soft-power presence China is trying to establish on the world stage.

MORE: Can China’s New Leader Prevent an Economic Crisis?


In addition to looking elegant and stylish she will need to learn to look adoringly at her husband when the camera is on her. In no photo is she looking at hubby and smiling. Emulating the First Lady and the Duchess of Cambridge will require an energetic interest in a cause to help others. 


A very beautiful woman, Madame Peng will be covered in some sectors more than her husband simply because she dresses for success and turns heads wherever she goes. Photos of her accompanying her husband in his first overseas trip as President show foreign dignitaries smiling in admiration of her charm -- surely a good way to help ensure a smooth diplomatic mission.

People care about style. It's important to show that some values are universal -- including a love of high fashion and elegance.

I also think it's wonderful that she cares about causes most people can support and in so doing sets a good example for others.