First Lady Peng Liyuan Essay

Introduction

The first lady concept originated from the United States in the 18th Century, and since then, many countries have adopted the concept. First ladies are, in most instances, the presidents’ wives. Despite their commonality, their roles have not been defined. The lack of specified duties and roles has made it imperative to use their visibility to gauge their effectiveness. China is an example of nations that have actively embraced first ladyship. The current first lady, Peng Liyuan, has revolutionized the position in China, taking it to a whole new level. The following essay investigates the role of first ladies in the world. It also scrutinizes the glamorous Peng Liyuan and the fashion sense she promotes and compares her with her predecessors. Analysis indicates that Peng Liyuan is fashion-conscious and is envied by many for being stylish. She is also the most visible first lady in the history of the China.

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First Lady

First lady, as a concept, was developed in the US by journalists and is commonly applied to refer to the state or government leader’s wife. The title has, however, evolved and expanded to include the spouse of any senior executive person, for example, governors. Their primary role is to be the hostess for the capacity their spouses serve. It is common, however, to have a president without a first lady. An example is Brazil whose president is a lady. In the event where the president is not married or is deceased, he may appoint another suitable individual the first lady. The US Constitution uses gender-sensitive words when referring to the first lady leaving the title open to be occupied by either gender.

The real duties of the first lady have not been consentual. In most countries, the laws do not specify the roles and duties of the first lady. Their first presumably obvious role is to act as the hostess in the presidential residence. Most of them choose a cause to champion besides being a hostess. Over the years different first ladies have lobbied for various causes. They include women’s rights, female gender mutilation, safe birth campaigns, illiteracy, drug awareness and healthcare reforms among many others. Essentially, these issues are not politically divisive because, just like the leader of the country, the first lady should be a symbol of national unity. Another role the first ladies play is to act as presidential advisors. Most of the first ladies who are learned or well informed actively contribute their informed opinions on matters of national importance. A good example is Eleanor Roosevelt, who wrote opinion articles in newspapers, magazines and even had a radio show. She is arguably the most active first lady to have ever lived, a fact contested by the proponents of Jiang Qing, the disgraced wife of Mao Zedong.

The ladies are also increasingly being viewed as political celebrities because they are public women. For instance, Hilary Clinton campaigned with and for Bill Clinton and Jiang Qing, who was a revolutionary in her right. Another role that first ladies play is ceremonial. The role includes representing the presidents in functions where they could not attend. The first ladies attend as the president’s representatives. They also accompany the president on state tours abroad to discharge their diplomatic responsibilities. Of late, many first ladies have taken up the roles of being fashion trendsetters. The US first lady her Chinese counterpart have been the most visible first ladies in this sense. Their fashion conscious dressing has spurred online debates that have helped bring publicity to the clothing lines and brands that dress them. Most have also been able to promote their indigenous apparel industries. Despite all the roles, some of them have opted to remain inactive and even shy away from the public eye. The following is an observation of Peng Liyuan, the current first lady of China who continues to dazzle the world with her sense of fashion.

Peng Liyuan

Peng Liyuan is the current first lady of China and President’s Xi Jinping’s wife. She became the first lady in March 2013 when President Jinping assumed office. The event catapulted her into the limelight and accorded her international recognition. She was, however, recognized in China prior to her becoming the first lady. She had served in the military where she was popular for her singing talent. She used to sing for the army during national celebrations and even during the war back in the 1980s. She also performed in theaters. Peng Liyuan's main source of popularity was her elegant, dignified style of dressing.

Peng Liyuan has embraced her role as style ambassador. Just like Michelle Obama’s preference for Jason Wu and Samantha Cameron for Roksand Ilicinc, Peng too has her designer. Since 2003, she has had her attires custom-made by Ma Ke. The designer now operates the lucrative studio Wuyong owing much of the popularity to Peng Liyuan. Apart from Ma Ke products, the first lady also has, from time to time, worn products by Dalian Dayang Trands, Lancy, and Kaiser. She has been a champion of clean, pure products. She has also been keen to promote Chinese culture and image to the world through incorporating decorative Chinese elements in her dressing. Through this elegant, graceful and stylistic dressing, Peng Liyuan has been able to develop her brand of soft power that has caught the world by surprise.

Peng Liyuan was first catapulted into the international scene in the fashion sense when she accompanied her husband, President Xi Jinping, to a state visit to Russia in 2013. It was her first trip abroad in her capacity as China’s first lady. She emerged from their presidential carrier wearing a trendy dark blue trench. It gave her a chic look. Combine that with the pale blue scarf, the knee-length skirt and high heeled shoes and Peng Liyuan became an instant internet sensation in a matter of minutes. Research indicates that after making the appearance, Peng Liyuan was mentioned more than 500,000 per second in the Chinese Weibo, a microblogging site similar to Twitter. The excitement has continued nearly every time she makes a public appearance. The following few cases, since May 2014, illustrate the continued internet presence she has had and the popularity she continues to gain.

On July 3 and 4, 2014, the Chinese President and the first lady visited South Korea to boost the relations between the two nations. Arriving at the airport, Peng Liyuan was wearing a silky greenish blouse with white and black faded stripes. She also wore a cream coat that contrasted wonderfully with her knee length black skirt. She complemented her look with a small black clutch bag and black high heeled shoes. Tao Bao, a popular Chinese site for e-commerce was the first to analyze her outfit and record the increase in sales for similar products. The posts described her dressing as a combination that projected an image of being relaxed, semi-casual, yet official. Fashion enthusiasts also posted her arrival pictures on Weibo and Instagram with the tailored cream jacket grasping the site user’s attention. That day, Peng Liyuan and President Xi were hosted in the presidential palace in Seoul for a state dinner. Later on, she would meet Chinese students in Seoul. On that day, she wore a button-down suit which was white in color. She also had a matching clutch bag and white high heeled shoes. On the long dress, she had a green floral brooch near the neck. The keen internet followers established that it was a model by Dalian which had a profound effect on driving up its sales in the next quarter of the year. Statistics indicate that Dalian Dayang Trands Company’s stock prices have increased in worth by more than 112.41% since her maiden visit to South Korea.

On August 21 to 22, 2014, President Xi, and his wife visited Mongolia to discuss cooperation between the two countries. On arrival, Peng Liyuan was wearing a white silky blouse, a fitting black tailored coat, and a knee-length black skirt. She also wore black high-heeled shoes and had a maroon clutch bag to complement her attire. She did not have other accessories such as a necklace or eyeglasses. She attended a ceremony at Chinggis Square with President Xi and later accompanied him to address the Parliament of Mongolia. She did not have any separate diplomatic duties.

On September 11 to 19, 2014, China’s President and the first lady attended the SCO Summit held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The two also visited other places such as Sri Lanka and India. On arrival in Tajikistan, Peng was wearing a white business suit. She also had a blue-black print satin blouse and a black handbag. The handbag caused frenzy online given that she had established a clutch bag as her favorite. In Instagram, her new style got rave reviews from more than 300,000 people who liked the picture of her arriving in Dushanbe. The following day, Peng Liyuan visited the Tajikistan Music Institute where she donated Chinese musical instruments to boost the institution. On that day, Peng Liyuan wore a blue Cheongsam dress designed by Ma Ke. Inside the dress, she wore a white long-sleeved shirt. Curiously she wore flat shoes, a rare occurrence given that she is used to high-heeled ones. She did not have a clutch or handbag. On her visit to India during the same trip, she wore a white silky Qipao dress designed by Ma Ke. Her only accessory was a print floral brooch she wore near the shoulder.

Between November 14 and 23, 2014, President Xi and the first lady appeared at the 9th G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane, Australia. They also visited countries such as New Zealand and Fiji during the tour. During her stay in Australia, Peng Liyuan visited the Queensland Museum in Brisbane. She wore a fitting, checked black dress with white spots. On top of it, she wore a tailored sky blue jacket and black high-heeled shoes. She also wore a floral brooch which was whitish in color with a black spot at the center. On September 16, 2014 she wore a gray Qipao dress with tinges of green prints, a white jacket, and white high-heeled shoes on a visit to Sri Lanka. A matching white clutch bag was her only visible accessory.

Apart from the diplomatic duties abroad, the first lady has also made fashion statements domestically. For instance, during the 4th CICA Summit in Beijing, Peng wore the traditional Qipao Cheongsam dress. It was gray in color containing black prints and a dark coat. They were complemented by a black handbag and black high-heeled shoes. Between November 5th and November 13th, she attended the Beijing APEC Summit. She wore a dark Cheongsam Qipao dress with light blue floral prints. She complemented her casual look with a maroon jacket. It is during this conference that Russia’s president offered to cover Peng Liyuan with a gray, tan coat reckoning she must be freezing. The scene created a heated online debate about Putin’s actions but also directed focus on Peng Liyuan’s attire. The dress designer, Lancy Company Limited, immediately recorded an increase in sales. By the year end of the year, the company had recorded a 45.88% increase in the value of their securities. The online debate on Peng Liyuan’s clothes and Putin’s chivalry continued until the Chinese internet censors swung into action. Eventually, it was not possible in China to search for the incident on the internet using the first lady’s name. The companies involved in designing the clothes she wore, however, got a huge publicity boost.

Peng Liyuan continues to make public appearances in stunning attires in China and abroad. However, one incidence may carry significance among the fashion watchers; Peng’s wearing the same outfit twice. It has only happened once. The attire she wore on a visit to South Korea on July 3, 2014, is synonymous with the one she wore on March 26, 2014. The March incident involved posing in a group photo with President Xi, Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena and his wife. Apart from that unique occurrence, Peng Liyuan has managed to wear a different outfit for the various functions she attends. Her fashion statements have had profound impacts on Ma Ke’s Wuyong, Dalian Dayang Trands, Lancy and Kaiser as they have been able to rise from obscurity to become fashion giants in China. Consequently, in the period between April, 2014 and March 2015 Dalian, Lancy and Kaiser have achieved 112.41%, 45.88% and 194.65% increase in stock prices.

President Xi Jinping Political Inclination

President Xi Jinping’s reign has been revolutionary. His reign has embraced more democratic processes even though China remains a non-democratic state. President Xi has embraced the efforts to make China a politically stable country. He has also championed for economic reforms. President Xi has been at the forefront of the war against corruption. There have, of late, been an increasingly polarization between the haves and have-not in China. As the disparity in income increases, so does the relation between the two social classes. President Xi has made it his business to root out corrupt leaders and government officials. He even visited a common bun shop in Beijing to indicate that he can relate to the troubles of the ordinary person.

Apart from economic reforms, China has also increasingly pursued regional and international integration. China is keen to integrate into an international order, a feat many of its leaders in the past had disregarded. Furthermore, the President and the first lady are also keen on maintaining a positive public image. They are concerned about the image of China and through their concerted efforts have already managed to create an image of a progressive country. President Xi is also sensitive to the demands of the people, unlike his predecessors who just focused on developing policies that were inward looking and sometimes hurtful to the population. As a result, the Chinese now have an expanded political space. The current political climate means that the president is more likely to respond to the Chinese public. The president and his wife are, thus, increasingly becoming popular in China and abroad.

Peng Liyuan versus Previous China First Ladies

The current first lady, Peng Liyuan, is arguably Chinese finest first lady to date. Unlike most of her predecessors, Peng Liyuan is keen to maintain a positive image that restore’s China’s good reputation. She has revolutionized the roles of the first lady of China. Some scholars have been quick to describe her as the ‘first’ first lady of China because she has redefined first ladyship in China. Apart from the various advocacy roles she plays, Peng Liyuan has also taken proactive approaches towards maintaining good diplomatic relations with other countries. She has on many occasions accompanied her husband on state visits. She is the most visible first lady in the history of China despite the fact that she has not been actively involved in politics such as campaigning.

Her predecessors were largely invisible. The scenario is fundamentally due to the spectacular failure and public rejection of Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s wife. Despite being a first lady, Jiang Qing was a radical revolutionist and a controversial wif. She was not loved by many in mainland China. Among the first ladies of China, Jiang Qing is the most politically active one. She was not only her husband’s personal secretary, but also held up several political posts. However, she was later convicted to life imprisonment when her husband died, and her support waned. The downfall acted as a lesson to the other first ladies. They steered clear of controversial issues and even avoided the public making appearances only when necessary.

Subsequent first ladies were significantly quiet and largely stayed out of the limelight. For instance, Deng Xiaoping’s wife, Zhuo Ling, never said a word to the media. She was visible and would accompany her husband to state visits abroad, however, she was mute. Then Jiang Zemin assumed office, with wife Wang Yeping. The wife rarely made any appearance in public. However, this was understandable given that she experienced serious health complications. Hu Jintao’s wife, Liu Yongqing kept an even lower profile. It was even hard to establish whether the Chinese leader had a wife. All these post-Jiang first ladies kept a low profile so as not to end up disgraced like Jiang Qing.

But Jiang’s experience, evidently, does not deter Peng Liyuan. Although there are very limited examples in China from where she can draw inspiration, she still continues to benchmark for those who will come after her. Some of those she may look up to include Wang Guang-Mei and Soong Mei Ling. Wang Guang-Mei, just like Peng Liyuan, was considered beautiful and articulate. She managed to handle her public executive positions as the first lady. She also frequently went abroad with her husband, President Liu Shaoqi, on international visits. The other impressive first lady of the country is Soong Mei Ling. She was well educated in America. She had a unique combination of beauty and brains that made her feature in the Times magazine several times. Apart from the few occupational committees she sat on she was also vocal in lobbying for China abroad, especially in the US.

Conclusion

In conclusion, China’s First Lady is a fashion conscious figure, who continues to have influence in the country due to her sense of fashion. Her sense of style makes her one of the most distinguished first ladies in China. The role of the first lady is ambiguous and is still being defined to date. However, to avoid the dilemma, most would choose a cause to champion. One of the crucial roles that have been bestowed on first ladies is to become fashion trendsetters, a task Peng Liyuan has handled with ease. Peng is a glamorous first lady who has hit the right notes with her elegant, dignified dressing. Apart from her dressing prowess, she has also revolutionized the roles of the first lady in China by using her visibility to improve the country’s image. For this reason, Peng has set a high target for the future Chinese First Ladies, meaning that it will take them a lot to reach Peng’s heights.

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