US presidents have long deployed their wives to broaden their appeal. Now Xi Jinping, China's incoming head of state, is getting in on the act.
When Mr Xi travels to South Africa later this month, he will use his folk singer wife as part of a charm offensive to build Chinese "soft power".
Peng Liyuan, famous in China for her fiery performances of patriotic songs, will have her own speaking engagement as her husband attends the Brics summit in Durban, three people familiar with the plans told the Financial Times.
"She will make an independent appearance," said a friend of Ms Peng. Another person briefed on plans for the trip added: "She can help China build soft power."
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The move underscores the sense that Mr Xi is treading a different path from his predecessor, Hu Jintao, who was known for his stiff and scripted style.
Ms Peng could become the only Chinese first lady to take a significant international role since Soong May-ling, wife of Chiang Kai-shek, helped her husband secure US support for his crumbling regime during the second world war.