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Today’s Issue

  • Women in today’s China don’t have much currency in the government, says the scholar and journalist Leta Hong Fincher. That raises the question: How does one account for Peng Liyuan, the Chinese first lady?
  • Fincher joined The Masthead for an episode of our series The Present Past, in which we look back to The Atlantic’s history for clues to understand the current moment.
  • This issue discusses one big idea from The Masthead’s conversation with Fincher. You can listen to the full interview on SoundCloud, or you can get it directly in your podcast player.

By Karen Yuan

Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, took the stage long before he did. Peng was for decades a folk singer for the People’s Liberation Army. Her patriotic performances were viewed by the entire nation during China Central Television’s Chinese New Year program—the most watched TV show in the world. Resplendent in bouffant hair and ball gowns, Peng portrayed an image of the Communist Party that was decidedly female. She has carried on that persona since Xi took power in 2012, making public appearances and political appeals of her own, and leading some Western writers to call her China’s “first” first lady.

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