Younger Xi goes on the record about wife

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 October, 2014, 4:53am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 October, 2014, 2:13pm

President Xi Jinping's younger brother revealed publicly yesterday for the first time that the woman once dubbed the "military's first beauty" and who vanished from the limelight six years ago was his wife.

The revelation came in a rare full-page article Xi Yuanping penned for the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone Daily about his family to commemorate the 101st birthday of their late father Xi Zhongxun .

Analysts said Xi Yuanping's article was the first attempt to set the record straight about Zhang Lanlan, who had been the subject of the rumour mill.

Zhang, 34, was a popular actress, singer and television compere on the mainland. Born to a working-class family in Chongqing , she was recruited by a People's Liberation Army choir when she was 15.

Xi aimed to tell the public he and Zhang were a good couple, just like President Xi and Peng Liyuan , a famous PLA singer. "It seems Xi Yuanping wanted to present a wholesome image of the entire Xi family ahead of the Communist Party's fourth plenary session next week," said Chen Daoyin , an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

"Besides building a strong army and a rich country, Xi's other goal is to boost moral education under the influence of Confucianism, which highlights the family and 'self-cultivation' ."

It is not the first time Xi Yuanping has written about his family. Last year, he wrote for China Youth Daily about his father's influence on him.

This time, he devoted more than 1,500 of the 7,500 characters in the article to describing his relationship with Zhang, saying they met in 2005 and married three years later. Zhang, a successful actress, gave up her career when their first child arrived.

"[Zhang] Lanlan is a simple and sincere woman. She not only had a successful career, but is also a competent daughter-in-law, good wife and loving mother," he wrote.

Like his famous brother and father, Xi Yuanping has been married twice.

The article attempted to settle doubts about Zhang's "mysterious disappearance" in 2008. There were some rumours on the mainland that her absence was linked to Xu Caihou , then deputy chairman of the PLA's Central Military Commission.

However, the article was taken down from the online edition of the Shenzhen newspaper and most mainland websites yesterday afternoon.

Sources at People's Daily said the article was deleted after the authorities issued an internal order "not to stir up [attention about] Zhang's former acting career".

"The central leadership is very nervous ahead of the plenary session. They don't want any negative messages that might bring harm to Xi," political commentator Zhang Lifan said.