Public Diplomacy Adds Soft Touch for China
   2013-03-29 19:50:15    Xinhua      Web Editor: Liu Yuanhui
Chinese President Xi Jinping's wife has received increasing attention for not only her attire, but also her good-will activities during the presidential visit to four nations, a soft-toned diplomatic gesture to boost China's image.

Upon arrival in Moscow last week, Peng Liyuan, in an elegant overcoat, descended the plane arm in arm with President Xi. A photo of her appearance has been widely circulated on the Internet and published in major newspapers.

The picture gives the world a more tender impression of China, a country that has often been viewed as rigid and, sometimes, "threatening."

Women are usually tender in nature and are easier to connect with than men. As for the wives of state leaders, women are in a better position to promote public diplomacy during their visits abroad.

Prof. Wang Fan at China Foreign Affairs University said the role of leaders' wives can be a good supplement to state diplomacy. They can take part in non-governmental activities on the sidelines of official meetings, which adds a soft touch to official diplomacy and helps boost national images.

During her stay in Moscow, Peng visited a local boarding school for orphans. She also visited the Women and Development Foundation in Tanzania, donating sewing machines, school bags and other gifts to the foundation.

"Peng's role is special and she bears the responsibility of public diplomacy," Wang said.

Peng's role also reflects the government's more attention to public diplomacy. As a result of its rise in economy power, China more values people-to-people relationship, a subtle shift from the previous overwhelming focus on official ties.

The country is also trying to build a more benign image to counter the "China threat" described in some media. Chinese leaders have found that non-official diplomatic maneuvers can help people better understand China.

With more Chinese cultural centers, TV series and people-to-people exchange activities, China is using multiple methods to connect to other societies and promote its culture.

When delivering a speech in Tanzania, Xi mentioned "A Beautiful Daughter-In-Law Era," a TV series about a modern Chinese couple that has gained popularity in African countries.

On the last day of 2012, the China Public Diplomacy Association was founded in Beijing. Chairman of the association Li Zhaoxing, also former foreign minister, said it will boost China's soft power by mobilizing, coordinating and organizing social resources and the public in an inclusive way.

Peng's activities might provide another channel for Chinese public diplomacy.

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