【英语中国】中国“第一夫人”走向舞台中心

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所属分类:双语中国

2013-3-18 21:25

小艾摘要: When Liu Shaoqi, then China’s president, visited Indonesia in 1963, his wife Wang Guangmei helped him accomplish his mission. An elegant figure in a traditional Qipao dress, she helped China, poor an ...
When Liu Shaoqi, then China’s president, visited Indonesia in 1963, his wife Wang Guangmei helped him accomplish his mission. An elegant figure in a traditional Qipao dress, she helped China, poor and shaken by constant political campaigns, project a positive image abroad.

Her high profile came back to haunt her. As her husband was targeted as a “counterrevolutionary” in the Cultural Revolution, modern China’s most brutal political campaign, Ms Wang was paraded on the street in a too-tight Qipao made to look like it was splitting open and a mock necklace made of ping pong balls. She was then jailed for 12 years. Jiang Qing, the last wife of Mao Zedong and one of the few to in effect control China during the Cultural Revolution, was said to have had a hand in Ms Wang’s persecution.

Since then, the concept of first lady has been practically redundant. But Xi Jinping, who is set to assume full power today with the post of president following his ascent to the post of Communist party chief last November, now intends to capitalise on the charisma of his singer wife Peng Liyuan to tackle China’s image problems abroad.

“This is a symbol of China catching up with international practice. There is a lot of talk about how we have a first lady we can be proud of,” says Chen Yan, a history professor at Fudan University.

Compared with western first ladies, Ms Peng’s planned appearance on Mr Xi’s trip may seem minor. She will give a short speech in South Africa, sources familiar with the matter say. But it is a big step in China: The experience of figures such as Jiang Qing has imprinted on the party the lesson that politics and family do not mix – at least not in public.

Deng Xiaoping, the politician who led China out of Mao’s struggles towards reform and opening, and his successor Jiang Zemin rarely took their wives on overseas visits. Hu Jintao, who steps down today, was accompanied by his wife on most foreign trips, but the petite Liu Yongqing always remained silent.

The party became even more reluctant to parade leaders’ wives in public as their relatives have gained a disproportionate amount of economic influence after China’s market reforms. Wen Jiabao, the premier who will step down tomorrow, always kept his wife, a jewellery expert, out of the limelight as her business dealings tarnished his reputation and fuelled public anger about corruption.

The scandal over the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, which brought down party leadership hopeful Bo Xilai last year, was a reminder of days gone by as Gu Kailai, Mr Bo’s high-strung wife, became the main instrument for undoing Mr Bo as she was found guilty of the Heywood murder.

In such a climate, managing Ms Peng’s public persona has been a sensitive task for the party.

The 50-year-old folk singer, who holds the equivalent of a major general’s rank in the People’s Liberation Army, is a superstar at home. For many years, she was one of the highlights of state broadcaster CCTV’s annual lunar new year gala, China’s biggest entertainment event. Videos of her singing praising the motherland, the party or the armed forces in her trademark piercing soprano, with big hair and clad in stunning robes or a PLA uniform, are still favourites of the older generation.

Since Mr Xi’s ascent to the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s centre of political power, in 2007, Ms Peng has lowered her profile. She has stopped all commercial performances. But in 2011, she became a goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV for the World Health Organisation. In this role, she must engage with governments in other countries. Many in China hope she can do more than that. “Having the first lady step up to centre stage is good. It is a move of political openness and transparency,” says Jiang Jin, a history professor at East China Normal University.

A friend of Ms Peng’s says she could make a big impact. “She will win over hearts with her warm personality,” he says. “She is open and spontaneous.”

That is in line with the style Mr Xi is trying to adopt for his leadership. In December, state media took the unprecedented step of releasing photos of him with members of his family. Alistair Michie, a British PR expert in China, sees them as part of a strategy to present Mr Xi as a leader people can connect with. “They were showing he has feelings, that he has family, that he is a human being.”

Additional reporting by Zhao Tianqi

1963年,时任中国国家主席刘少奇出访印度尼西亚时,他的妻子王光美助了他一臂之力。当时的中国不仅贫穷,而且饱受政治运动之乱。但王光美身着中国传统旗袍,举止优雅,在外国人面前展现了中国积极的一面。

但王光美的高调,反过来害了她。当刘少奇在当代中国最残酷的政治运动——“文化大革命”中被打成“反革命分子”时,王光美被揪上大街示众。她被迫穿上一件紧得就像要裂开的旗袍,脖子上还挂着一串乒乓球串成的“项链”。之后她被囚禁了12年,据说江青参与了对她的迫害。江青是毛泽东最后一位妻子,也是文化大革命期间实际控制中国的几个人之一。

自那以后,“第一夫人”的概念在中国几乎不存在。但现在,习近平打算借用其歌唱家妻子彭丽媛的魅力,来帮助提升中国在海外的形象。去年11月成为中共中央总书记的习近平今日当选中国国家主席,实现了全面掌权。

复旦大学(Fudan University)历史学教授陈雁表示:“这是一个象征,意味着中国开始朝国际惯例靠拢。很多人都说,中国有了一个可以让人感到自豪的第一夫人。”

与西方国家的第一夫人相比,彭丽媛在习近平出访期间的亮相安排似乎有些低调。知情人士表示,她将在南非发表一次简短演讲。但这是中国迈出的一大步:“江青时代”让中共牢记一个教训,就是政治和家庭不能掺杂在一起,至少不能在公共场合。

领导中国告别毛泽东时代并走向改革开放的邓小平,以及他的继任者江泽民,都很少携带夫人出访国外。今天卸任的胡锦涛在大多数出国访问中会带上夫人,但身材娇小的刘永清总是保持沉默。

图集:聚光灯下的中国领导人夫人

中共越来越不希望让领导人的妻子公开露面,还有一个原因,就是许多领导人的亲属在中国市场改革过程中,获得了超出寻常的经济影响力。将于明日卸任的温家宝总理始终不愿让他的夫人出现在公众视野中,因为作为一位珠宝专家,她的经商活动危及到温家宝的声誉,甚至引发了公众对腐败的不满。

去年,英国商人尼尔?海伍德(Neil Heywood)被谋杀的丑闻,让原本有望进入中共领导层的薄熙来失势。薄熙来的妻子谷开来因谋杀海伍德获罪,成为薄熙来倒台的主要原因。

在这样一种背景下,塑造彭丽媛的公众形象,对中共而言是一个敏感任务。

现年50岁的民歌演唱家彭丽媛在国内是一位超级明星,她拥有少将军衔。许多年间,她是中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会——可以说是中国最大型的娱乐节目——的座上宾。一头大卷发、身穿华美礼服或中国人民解放军制服的彭丽媛,用极具穿透力的标志性女高音歌颂祖国、党或军队,这一画面仍深受老一辈人的喜爱。

自2007年习近平进入中共中央政治局常委以来,彭丽媛开始变得低调,不再参加任何商业演出。中共中央政治局常委是中国政治权力的核心。但在2011年,彭丽媛被世界卫生组织(WHO)聘为“抗击结核病和艾滋病亲善大使”。她因此必须和各国政府打交道。许多中国人希望,她能做得更多一些。华东师范大学(East China Normal University)历史学教授姜进表示:“让第一夫人走进公众视野是好事。这是走向政治开放和透明的一步。”

彭丽媛的一位朋友表示,她可能产生巨大的影响力。这位朋友说:“她将凭借她的热情性格赢得人心。她是个开朗而率真的人。”

这与习近平努力营造的执政风格相符。去年12月,中国官方媒体史无前例地刊发了习近平与家人的合影。英国公共关系专家麦启安(Alistair Michie)认为,这是中国将习近平塑造成一位亲民领导人的战略的一部分。他表示:“这些照片表现出习近平有感情,有家庭,是一个有血有肉的人。”

赵添琦补充报道

译者/何黎

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