Recent Chinese First Ladies have had one trait in common: anonymity. But Peng Liyuan, the stylish second wife of new leader Xi Jinping, isn’t shying away from the camera. During Xi’s first presidential trip abroad in March, she conducted a one-woman charm offensive across Russia and Africa, humanizing the communist regime.
Peng is used to the limelight. A folk singer in the People’s Liberation Army — yes, the Chinese military has cultural troupes — she was for decades far more famous than her husband. Now her clothes make headlines. While rich Chinese favor Western brands, Peng pointedly wore domestic labels on her tour. She’s bringing glamour to Made in China.
Beech is TIME‘s China bureau chief
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