How Xi Jinping sister-in-law became a media curiosity

October 16, 2014 13:19
Zhang Lanlan (left photo) is shown with family members. She has often been hailed as China's Marilyn Monroe for her good looks. Photos: internet, Shenzhen Special Zone Daily

Few words of praise for a woman's virtue and simple personality get a lot of mileage in China.

Except when the woman is the sister-in-law of President Xi Jinping and the subject of rumors about alleged links to a powerful official.

But that's how it transpired when Xi Yuanping, the 58-year-old younger brother of the Chinese leader, enthused about his wife, Zhang Lanlan, in an article marking the 101st birthday of the late family patriarch, Xi Zhongxun.

Xi Yuanping praised Zhang for being a "virtuous wife with an uncomplicated personality", according to Shenzhen Special Zone Daily which carried the article with several family photos.

Zhang, 34, a former singer and actress, has often been hailed as China's Marilyn Monroe for her good looks.

She joined a People's Liberation Army song and dance troupe in 2000 when Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan headed it.

But in 2008, Zhang disappeared from public view, sparking rumors about her personal life, including alleged links to Xu Caihou, the disgraced former deputy chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, and his son.

Her husband's effusive article appeared to address the rumors.

Xi wrote that he fell in love with Zhang in 2005 and married her in 2008 before the opening of the Beijing Olympics.

According to public records, the younger Xi was born in 1956, which makes him 24 years older than Zhang. He is said to have a son, Xi Mingzheng, with his former wife.

Web posts about the article were deleted hours after their release.

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Zhang Lanlan is a former singer and actress. She joined a PLA song and dance troupe headed by Peng Liyuan, now China's first lady. Photo: Internet
This is one of several family photos that came with an article by Xi Yuanping about his wife, Zhang Lanlan. Photo: Shenzhen Special Zone Daily

EJ Insight reporter