Peng Liyuan

When will Xi's wife come out of the shadows for maiden public appearance?

Pundits eagerly awaiting when Peng Liyuan, famous in her own right as a singer, will make first public appearance next to the president

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 9:04am

Speculation is mounting about when China's first lady-in-waiting, Peng Liyuan, will make her maiden public appearance with husband Xi Jinping, who will become president in less than two weeks.

Since November, when Xi became the Communist Party's general secretary, the world has been eagerly anticipating their first joint public appearance. Rumours are swirling that Xi may take Peng, a prominent military soprano, with him to Moscow this month, on his first overseas trip as president.

He will become president at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, which opens in Beijing on Tuesday.

The public was disappointed that Peng was not with her husband early this week when the visiting honorary chairman of Taiwan's Kuomintang, Lien Chan, introduced Xi to his wife, Lien Fangyu, and son, Sean Lien Sheng-wen.

Peng, 50, has been at pains to keep a low-profile since Xi's promotion to vice-president in 2008, quitting all public performances and doing charity work.

Cai Xiaoxin, a mainland military researcher, wrote in his microblog on Wednesday that she had voluntarily given two flats she owned back to her military unit in 2010 and late last year, moves in keeping with her husband's recent austerity drive.

He wrote that since Xi began a high-profile campaign to rid the party and military of corruption and waste after the 18th national congress in November, Peng had been in the news as a model party member more than ready to follow her husband's orders.

Free or heavily subsidised housing is among the most coveted perks that party, government and military officials can receive, especially amid soaring property prices across the mainland in recent years. But a military rule says that only a husband and wife both working in the army can benefit from the housing allotment system, Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po reported, and Peng gave back the two flats because Xi was not a serviceman.

"She sets a good example in answering chairman Xi's orders to tighten up military discipline and fight against corrupt practices," Cai wrote, referring to Xi's position as the head of the Central Military Commission.

Cai's post disappeared from his Weibo page hours after it was published, but it was quickly picked up by Wen Wei Po and other Hong Kong media outlets. Cai told Wen Wei Po that he had verified the news through several military sources, but that it had not been officially confirmed by the party or the military.

Peng, a top contemporary folk singer since 18, was one of the first mainlanders to obtain a master's degree in ethnic music and has been recognised as a "national first-degree performer".

The former soldier was also the youngest civilian to become a major general in the People's Liberation Army, owing to her background in the military's performing arts troupes. She is also the PLA political department's performing arts troupe president.

Peng regularly was on China Central Television's Lunar New Year Gala from the show's inception in 1983, but has faded into the background since Xi became vice-president.