Chinese first lady escapes pomp of British visit to charm students and eye robots

Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:07am EDT
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By Angus Berwick

LONDON (Reuters) - Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan slipped away from the pomp, politics and deal-making of President Xi Jinping's state visit to meet teenagers studying the Mandarin language -- and some of Britain's pop culture icons.

Xi's wife, 52, a huge star in China with independent fame as a folk singer, spent the first few days of the visit, the first by a Chinese leader in 10 years, touring a succession of schools, events and universities in London.

At a creative industry event on Wednesday, alongside Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, Peng and Xi met some of the robot overlords -- known as Daleks -- from BBC television's long-running sci-fi television series "Dr Who."

They chatted with Hong Kong kung fu film star Jackie Chan and viewed an exhibit about fictional secret agent James Bond.

During a visit to a school in north London she listened to poetry and songs in Mandarin, widely considered one of the most difficult languages for English speakers.

"Your Chinese is better than my English," she told the students at Fortismere school, according to translated words.

She also watched a Mandarin class during which students learnt Mao Zedong's saying that "girls hold up half the sky".

Asked by students whether girls and boys were equally represented in China's education system, Peng said too many "good girls" missed out on a place despite working harder than the boys.   Continued...

Peng Liyuan, the wife of China's President Xi Jinping, waves as she leaves The Royal College of Music in London, Britain October 22, 2015.REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett