Peng, 50, is known for singing soaring patriotic songs in praise of the Communist Party, often while clad in glittering floor-length ball gowns and occasionally in Chinese ethnic minority costume (think Barbra Streisand in Native American garb). She was born in Shandong province, enrolled at Shandong University of Art and Design at age 14, and joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1980, at 18. In 1986 she married Xi Jinping. Her daughter, Xi Mingze, was born in 1992 and stays invisible too (she studies at Harvard under an assumed name).
[…] Fast-forward to now: the Financial Times just reported that Peng will not only accompany Xi to the BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa, this month, but will speak there. “She can help China build soft power,” said a source in the piece. Peng also became a Goodwill Ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS—a controversial subject in China—for the World Health Organization last year and won a splashy $160,000 China Arts Award in December.
[…] Pressure is on for the CCP to burnish its image. Overly outsize stars within—or married to—the party can be reined in, but society at large is developing a celebrity culture, and that’s a threat too. More and more, people look up to leaders from business, pop culture, and the Internet. Alibaba founder Jack Ma inspires Steve Jobs–like reverence in China. Real-estate tycoon Zhang Xin is affiliated with the World Economic Forum and the Council on Foreign Relations and is becoming a thought leader. And the rabid following behind Li Yang, founder of Crazy English, is downright cultlike.
See also Is Xi’s Wife a New Kind of First Lady?, via CDT.
See more on Peng Liyuan via CDT.