April 1, 2013

U.S. Falling Behind in Political Theatre: Histrionics Surrounding the Peng Liyuan Tiananmen Square Photo

Although I have only a superficial grasp of Chinese politics and the visual dynamics surrounding Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, it seems awkward for the Chinese that a photo (since erased) would surface of her serenading government troops after the massacre in Tiananmen Square. If ongoing scandals involving China’s leadership have been likened to a soap opera, however, what’s really startling — at least to these Western eyes — are the comparison of the Tiananmen shot making the rounds and scenes from this propaganda music video of the artist-soldier airing on Chinese television in ‘09.

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Granted Peng is a “pop-folk icon,” an actress-performer of military rank. To the extent Peng, as the President’s wife, has been described in the press as “China’s answer to Michelle Obama,” however — Obama having made an extraordinary effort to identify herself, especially through photo ops, with American soldiers and veterans)…

perhaps the political theatre, in the post-Bush era, has really moved elsewhere.

(photo 1: Weibo/ ChinaDigitalTimes.net caption: Peng Liyuan singing to martial-law troops after the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989 (caption via IBT Times.) screenshots: 【每日歌曲 720HD】国歌响起 / 彭丽媛 via cctv13music. photo 2: Chuck Kennedy/White House. caption: First Lady Michelle Obama greets Marines following her remarks to 3,000 Marines, soldiers, sailors, and military family members at Memorial Field House in Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 13, 2011. The event was part of the launch of Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families.)

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Michael Shaw
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