Chinese state media unveil premier's wife for first time

Mon May 5, 2014 3:01am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's state media have published for the first time the photograph and resume of Premier Li Keqiang's wife, a professor of English who has translated several books on American literature.

State news agency Xinhua said on Sunday that Li was married to Cheng Hong, who is aged 56 or 57. The couple, who left on Sunday for an official tour of Africa, have one daughter and met at the elite Peking University, Xinhua said.

The move to put Cheng on public display could reflect a new effort by China to cultivate soft power and burnish its image on the international stage.

Cheng has taught in the foreign languages department of the Capital University of Economics and Business for more than 30 years, Xinhua said. She specialized in English teaching and research and was responsible for a research project on "natural literature and eco-criticism".

Cheng's unveiling is unusual, as Chinese leaders generally keep secret the details of their personal lives.

The wife of former Premier Wen Jiabao never traveled with him, though the wives of former premiers Li Peng and Zhu Rongji accompanied them on trips, the Beijing News reported on Monday, citing a former foreign ministry official.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's wife, Peng Liyuan, has decisively broken the mold of Chinese first wives, who have kept an intentionally low profile since the 1970s.

Peng, a famous singer, has been photographed playing steel drums in Trinidad, strolling hand-in-hand with a coffee farmer's daughter in Costa Rica and snapping pictures with her iPhone in the shadow of Mayan ruins in Mexico.

Chinese leaders' wives have usually kept a low profile because of the experience of Jiang Qing, the widow of the founder of Communist China, Mao Zedong.   Continued...

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) and his wife Cheng Hong wave as they arrive at the airport in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, May 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Li Tao/Xinhua