| Global Times | 2013-3-25 20:08:01
By Shen Dingli
Peng Liyuan's debut on the international stage as China's first lady has put her into the international limelight. Along with her husband, Chinese President Xi Jinping, she has just paid a highly successful state visit to Russia.
Xi's visit to Russia has been very rewarding by promoting Sino-Russian relations to a new height. Both countries deemed their bilateral ties as among the most crucial in their external relations. In particular, Beijing and Moscow are committed to supporting each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is significant in boosting global stability.
Peng's accompanying her husband made this visit even more perfect. Her graceful presence on various occasions has brought China and Chinese people closer to Russia and Russians. China needs a high-profile staging of its new top leader and his family to be presented to the world, to empower its state and public diplomacy.
For a long time Peng has been loved by Chinese. As a renowned military vocalist, she has performed for many years for the country and has sent her songs to Chinese servicemen posted in various frontiers and remote islands.
As a WTO ambassador for the fight against AIDS, she has been very dedicated to such causes as well as public charities.
Overall, she enjoys great popularity among Chinese and is widely viewed as a tremendous element of China's soft power. Now as the first lady, it is time to present such soft power on the world stage.
With her new capacity, Peng has great opportunity to assist her husband and help China, in Russia and Africa this time, and in many other places later.
Both China and the world at large look forward to knowing the first family through their presentation in and engagement with the world. Through interaction and exchange, the international community will better appreciate China's humility, friendliness and confidence.
It is not uncommon for China's top leaders to make foreign visits with their spouses. This actually started in 1963 when then president of China, Liu Shaoqi, paid his visit to four nations in Southeast Asia. Then first lady Wang Guangmei accompanied Liu to visit Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, well representing China at that time.
Both former president Jiang Zemin and former president Hu Jintao have furthered this tradition of state diplomacy with their wives.
But Peng's debut has received particular international attention. Given China's rise, China's first lady diplomacy is also expected to get a significant boost. Peng's graceful performance and inspiring speeches delivered abroad could send the message out soundly and profoundly that the representative of Chinese mothers cares for orphans in Russia and elsewhere, and that China is committed to working with others for world peace and development.
Besides, Peng's use of domestic brands has swiftly created an impact to promote Chinese designs and costume culture, perhaps inadvertently. Her style, character, and radiance happily promote China's cultural image abroad.
Chinese are inspired by the openness of the new leadership and their caliber in presenting the country. It is clear that China is touching the world in a more amicable way.
The author is professor and associate dean of Institute of International Studies at Fudan University. firstname.lastname@example.org
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