Date
25 September 2017
Premier Li Keqiang and his wife Cheng Hong wave to officials Sunday before leaving for a four-nation African trip. Photo: Xinhua
Premier Li Keqiang and his wife Cheng Hong wave to officials Sunday before leaving for a four-nation African trip. Photo: Xinhua

Premier Li’s wife in the limelight amid landmark Africa trip

China’s state media has for the first time released a photo and a biographical sketch of Premier Li Keqiang’s wife Cheng Hong, as she accompanied her husband on an eight-day Africa trip. 

Li left Beijing Sunday morning for official visits to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya, in his first trip to Africa since taking over as China’s premier in March 2013. With his wife joining him on the state visit, the government used the occasion to provide some information on Cheng, who had rarely shown up in public in the past, setting off a flurry of media and online chatter.

Apple Daily noted that the visit marks Cheng’s first public appearance since Li took over as premier. Cheng taught for more than 30 years and is now a professor at the foreign language department at Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing. She has generally kept a low profile and concentrated on doing research.

Cheng’s high reputation in academic circles and good English proficiency have been described as Li’s “soft power” by the media, which could not but help compare her with President Xi Jinping’s wife Peng Liyuan. Both have been highly praised for their poise and elegance, but with individual personal traits. Some observers feel Cheng dresses a little too conservatively, but others think it just right given China’s current thrift campaign.

Cheng graduated from the PLA University of Foreign Languages in Luoyang in Henan province, a school known for cultivating spies for the military. She worked on her Ph.D. at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and is said to have met Li when she was engaged in advanced English studies at Peking University.

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