Asian Girl Problem #12: First Lady Problems

I don’t try to understand anything about politics. I’m not proud of it, but I’m uncomfortable opining about such a convoluted and complex topic. There are definitely steps I could take to educate myself better, but I’d rather put my energies on things I know to be true–like donuts. What a simpleton. When I had to write a post about Chinese first lady and singer/actress/national treasure Peng Liyuan for work, I stuck to safe topics like her taste and influence in fashion.

If understanding American politics is impossible, understanding the inner workings of Chinese politics would be like teaching a unicorn sign language. The only thing people can really say about it is how opaque and inconsistent it is. It can only be described in negations. Ironically, this means that I know just as much as most people do about the government–which is to say, nothing at all. I know that theres is a new leader and first lady who took the chair this year, and that she has been a beloved celebrity in China since the 80s.

It’s hard not to like someone who’s really beautiful talented and fashionable. If nothing else, she’s helping change the way people see China and put a likeable face to their leaders. Politics aside (per usual), I’m grateful that there’s someone at the forefront to show other countries that Chinese woman are sexy and hip and that we’re not still living in the age of rickshaws and foot binding. When I was researching her, I found many comparisons between Peng Liyuan with Michelle Obama  fashionable personas and active political participation.

That is, until the latter declined to meet and greet the former last weekend, breaking protocol and causing a huge uproar among Chinese people. All week, Chinese tv stations have been covering and discussing Michelle’s snub, though I haven’t heard anything about it on American news channels. I’ve always been a sucker for conspiracy theories, but I doubt any of the controversy has to do with the individuals themselves, but higher political powers that be.

Based on what little I hear from my mother, who’s obsessed with Chinese politics, the government has changed but not improved in the past few decades. It just seems to get weirder and more enigmatic. Some of the things they’ve been purported to do are enraging, making it really hard for anyone to associate with them without backlash. What makes her most controversial is her support of the Chinese military after the Tiananmen Square riots in 1989 (I was there! My brain too tiny to remember.) and general pandering to the government as a propaganda singer.

The actual summit seemed convivial and successful for both countries–perhaps so convivial that all the attention got focused on the snub? It’s kind of annoying. You start building hope in someone who might represent your people better and possibly improve the reputation of your country, but the fact of the matter is, your country has no redeeming factors in the eyes of the rest of the world. And then it culminates into situations like this that get perceived as some petty female feud when, in fact, they are both dynamic and powerful women who probably have a ton more in common than not.


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