Peng Liyuan

First ladies add their own frisson to Sino-US summit, one by her absence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 4:04am

Chinese media was buzzing about the first ladies of China and America yesterday.

Peng Liyuan was seen snapping a picture with what looked like a white iPhone 5. The photo was taken when Peng and President Xi Jinping were watching a folk dance near the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in southern Mexico on Thursday.

The news that Peng has the latest Apple gadget comes after China Central Television and People's Daily attacked Apple for allegedly providing Chinese users with inferior after-sales service and vowed to rectify its "unparalleled arrogance".

Peng's iPhone photo triggered heated discussion on mainland microblogs. "Why isn't she using a Chinese-brand phone, in the same way that she supports Chinese-brand clothes?" some asked. Others worried about the security of the first lady using an Apple device. "Does it mean she can be tracked through the Global Positioning System?" one wrote.

Internet users were equally occupied with a heated debate about the absence of US first lady Michelle Obama from this weekend's informal summit.

Her office had said earlier that she would be staying in Washington with her daughters. Monday is younger daughter Sasha's 12th birthday, and Michelle Obama has previously described herself as "mum in chief" and said she would always put her girls first.

The announcement triggered a wave of speculation and sympathy online. "State affairs are important, but family is also important," said one microblogger.

But some poked fun and said Michelle Obama wanted to avoid being compared with China's charming first lady.

Renmin University international relations specialist Professor Pang Zhongying said Obama's absence indicated Sino-US relations were not as close as they appeared to be. "It suggests that the two nations are not really very friendly," he said.