China's First Lady Peng Liyuan Brings Rare Glamour to U.S. Summit With Obama


China's First Lady Bringing Her Glamor to the U.S.

Video of her ornately costumed in traditional dress is readily available on the internet. She is a gifted soprano, singing songs such as "My Mother Country" and "People From Our Village" that extol Communist Party morals and undying loyalty to China. On the road as much as 350 days a year at one point Peng Liyuan even appeared on stage at Lincoln Center in New York.

As famous as she was, little is known of her courtship or life with Xi Jinping. In China, the "First Couple" doesn't sit for People magazine. It has been reported they met in 1986 and married the next year. Living mostly separate lives, she continued to perform while he continued to climb the Communist party ladder. They have one daughter who is believed to be studying at Harvard University. When it became clear he was a contender for the top leadership post, Peng Liyuan took a significant step back from public life.

But if their current tour is any indication, there may be no stopping her. In Mexico, the last place they visited before heading to California, the state-run news agency Xinhua ran photos of her visiting the Federico Gomez Children's Hospital in Mexico City. She is seen smiling brightly as she comforts children, an image of tenderness and care.

In more formal photographs of the couple with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto and his wife, Angelica Rivera, Peng Liyuan stands at attention like the army general she is. She is perfectly turned out, and perfectly in line.

As beautiful as Peng Liyuan is, and as poised as she has proven to be, the Chinese government may still be undecided about how best to utilize her soft power on the world stage.

"China as a nation," said Hung Huang, "we are very uncomfortable with women in powerful positions. In fact in China there is a saying which means essentially 'beauty = disaster' which is not a happy, positive association."

Perhaps with that in mind, Peng Liyuan has not yet announced an issue or cause she will champion over the next 10 years during her husband's tenure as China's leader. Nor has she spoken on any political issue. In the past, she has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization with a focus on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

In California on Friday and Saturday, Mrs. Xi will not have a counterpart with whom to pass the time as her husband gets to know President Obama. The White House announced that Michelle Obama, who is a very popular figure in China, will not be at the Summit at Sunnylands due to family commitments.

While the world will go on without a photo op starring the two first ladies, there may be more calls for more Peng Liyuan.

"I think it is time to recognize Girl Power in China," said Hung Huang.

If the government allows it, Peng Liyuan might just be the starting note.

ABC News' Sasha Han and Kaijing Xiao contributed to this report from Beijing

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