Ivanka Trump – the US president’s new China charmer-in-chief
US President Donald Trump may be bugging Beijing with his tweets but his daughter Ivanka is winning Chinese friends and is set to influence bilateral ties after her formal appointment to the White House.
Chinese analysts said the 35-year-old businesswoman, who confirmed on Wednesday that she would be an unpaid adviser in her father’s administration, played an important role in helping counter her father’s combative approach towards Beijing.
The former model has been on a charm offensive with China, using her children to help woo the Chinese public.
In February, as observers wondered why Trump did not follow precedent and send a personal Lunar New Year greeting to the Chinese community, Ivanka made a surprise visit to the Chinese embassy in Washington with her five-year-old daughter, Arabella Kushner.
Ivanka also posted a clip online of Arabella holding a Chinese puppet and singing a Lunar New Year song in Putonghua.
Then on Monday, Ivanka posted a picture on Instagram of her celebrating her son Theodore’s first birthday by sharing Chinese “long life” noodles, with the caption: “Birthday tradition! #noodlesforlonglife.”
Analysts said Ivanka’s public displays of affection for Chinese culture were proving effective with the Chinese public.
“Ivanka Trump has quite a positive image among Chinese ,” Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of American Studies, said.
“She caters to the emotional needs that the Chinese people have due to the uncertainties of the Sino-US diplomatic relationship.”
Fudan University international relations professor Ren Xiao said Ivanka’s appointment to the White House could benefit ties between the two countries.
“Donald Trump obviously trusts his daughter and his son-in-law a lot,” Ren said. “The couple is likely to recommend a more respectful and careful approach when dealing with China.”
Mainland state media have also been quick to heap praise on Ivanka, including a strange tweet last month from Xinhua that compared her face with that of Chinese actress Li Bingbing.
“Do you think they look like each other?” the tweet asked.
Xinhua followed up on Tuesday by posting four photos on its website of Ivanka’s visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, with a headline describing her as “elegant, with gracious style”.
Chinese media have used similar terms of endearment to describe Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping, and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and the wife of Britain’s Prince William.
Shanghai University media professor Dai Yuanguang said the words used were “a rather high compliment” and could be seen as goodwill from Beijing just days ahead of next week’s summit between Trump and Xi.