Creating a perfect First Family
There might be five years to go, but the mainland's giant propaganda machine has started in earnest on the construction of the perfect future First Family.
The latest in a blitz of tabloid-style stories about Xi Jinping , the 54-year-old former Shanghai party chief who's slated to lead the country in five years' time, and his superstar wife Peng Liyuan was run on the CCTV website yesterday, with a headline that screamed 'Peng on Happy Family Life'.
It is a marked departure for the mainland media, where the leadership's personal lives are usually off limits.
Until last month the glamorous soprano had been the dominant partner when it came to star power. But the Communist Party's 17th National Congress, which ended last month, catapulted Mr Xi to the position of heir apparent to president and party chief Hu Jintao when the latter retires in 2012 and propelled him to the centre of public attention.
The CCTV story had Peng revealing the secret of her perennial on-stage glamour. 'It has a lot to do with my family,' she said. 'If I didn't have a happy marriage, which would potentially wreak havoc on my heart, I would not have been able to maintain a shiny public image.'
The 45-year-old first lady-in-waiting also assured the country's 1.3 billion people that she'd throw her undivided support behind her mission-bound husband. 'Family is a peaceful harbour for a woman and is the rock for a woman,' she said.
One small city newspaper went into the full, juicy details of the couple's first date in 1986. It was not love at first sight, according to the story, because Mr Xi looked 'older than his age' and 'a bit of a bumpkin' when Peng first met him. But he captured her heart later with his 'wide-ranging knowledge and articulateness'.
In an apparently subtle effort to polish Mr Xi's public image, another newspaper said Peng's family opposed the union at first because of Mr Xi's status as a 'princeling' - one of the offspring of veteran revolutionaries and elite leaders. It turned out Mr Xi was 'worlds apart' from a pampered kid. During his formative years, which he spent in the countryside, he 'absorbed' knowledge, ploughing the fields by day and devouring one book after another at night, it said.
The couple tied the knot in 1987 but lived apart for many years. They have a daughter named Mingze, meaning 'an upright, innocent and useful person', the report said.