Born to a working-class family in Chongqing, Zhang Lanlan, 34, was recruited by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) choir when she was 15. After graduating from high school, she was promoted to the General Political Department Song and Dance Troupe.
Why is she famous?
Zhang was called the “military’s most beautiful woman” after appearing in many series on CCTV, the state-run broadcaster. At the peak of her popularity, she performed solo during the widely-watched Spring Festival Gala in 2008. “For a while my mom didn’t want me to pursue acting. But I insisted. Sometimes you need to take risks in life. If you don’t take risks you will never succeed,” Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Daily quoted Zhang as saying in an interview.
Why is she in the news?
Zhang vanished from the public eye after the Spring Gala in 2008. However, she dramatically resurfaced last week when President Xi Jinping’s brother, Xi Yuanping, revealed that he had married her. In an article published in the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily to commemorate the 101st birthday of his late father Xi Zhongxun, the younger brother of Xi said that he has been married to Zhang since 2008. “[Zhang] Lanlan is a simple and sincere woman. She not only had a successful career, but is also a competent daughter-in-law, a good wife and a loving mother,” he wrote.
Analysts say Xi, 58, wants to highlight that he and Zhang are a good couple, just like his brother President Xi and Peng Liyuan, another famous PLA singer (like his famous brother and father, Yuanping has been married twice).
“It seems Xi Yuanping wanted to present a wholesome image of the entire Xi family ahead of the Communist Party’s Fourth Plenum Session,” Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told the South China Morning Post. Netizens offered different interpretations. “It seems like the Xi family has a strong preference for military women,” said one. Others noted the 25-year age gap between Xi’s younger brother and his starlet wife.
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