The elegant new spokesperson vs. the steadfast old cultural icon

Today is Lei Feng Day, but there’s an elegant and amiable woman who stole his thunder on China’s newspaper front pages today.

Who would you put on your front page today? There’s the elegant, amiable, humble, eloquent and female new spokesperson of the Two Sessions who held her first news conference yesterday…


And then there’s this guy who turns fifty today….

Two faces dominate China’s newspaper front pages today. One is the “elegant”, “gentle” and “amiable” new female spokesperson of the Two Sessions taking place in Beijing. Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying headed the event’s first press conference yesterday as the first ever female spokesperson at the Two Sessions. The other is the mythical cultural icon Lei Feng, as it is Lei Feng Day today. Naturally, however, the doughty old Lei Feng is slightly overshadowed by the graceful and soft-spoken Fu Ying.

Here’s how the Weifang Evening News (潍坊晚报) from Shandong province described how the new spokesperson, who was formerly China’s Ambassador in the Philippines, Australia, and finally in the UK, presided over her first Two Sessions news conference yesterday:

Slightly curled white hair, gentle intonation, amiable smile, graceful temperament…. When Fu Ying appeared as the appointed spokesperson at the first news conference at the Two Sessions yesterday morning and faced the public, she added a gentle air to the usually stormy news conferences.

Opening the news conference with an apology for being slightly late and for being a bit of a novice with such matters, Fu Ying’s humorous opening remarks displayed (as Weifang Evening News put it) “this female diplomat’s maturity”. And it only got better from there, as the newspaper recounts, because in the next hour Fu Ying discussed a variety of issues with foreign reporters such as the government budget, anti-corruption measures, the Sino-Japanese relationship and ongoing reforms by “speaking frankly with assurance” (侃侃而谈) and by being “gentle and cultivated” (温文尔雅). (For a detailed assessment of the actual content and implications of Fu Ying’s remarks, see SCMP or Caixin).

With her calm and collected manner, the newspaper says, Fu Ying received a lot of praise from people online. “Appearance and temperament not bad”, one said; “What a pretty woman!”, another commented.

So how is Lei Feng to compete with THIS?

There’s a few Lei Feng-related front pages today trying to make the most of 50 years of the spirit of the selfless soldier who sacrificed everything for Party and country:

  • In Sanjin City News from Shanxi province you can read a few anecdotes by elderly people describing when they first heard about Lei Feng and what the latter meant to them through their lives.
  • Wuhan Evening News from Hubei province is the newspaper to turn to today for Lei Feng. It has a special section of no less than nine pages called “Looking for Lei Feng” (寻找雷锋), with no Fu Ying in sight anywhere. In an article called “Do you know Lei Feng?” you can read the entire life story (including all myriad skills and achievements) of the man, followed by the full media and cultural aftermath of all the Lei Feng songs, various types of merchandise (including the “now-fashionable Lei Feng cap”), an exposition on the “Lei Feng Spirit”, and a scan of Lei Feng’s Internet presence (“Do you know that Lei Feng has more hits on Baidu than the actress Zhang Ziyi?”); and closing with the line “We are all Lei Feng…” Nine pages full of this stuff.
  • In the Western Sea Metropolis Daily (西海都市报) from Qinghai province you can read about the special Lei Feng-themed events that the newspaper helped organize.


Links and sources
Weifang Evening News (潍坊晚报): 很多中国人希望中国更强硬
SCMP: China vows to uphold judicial independence of Hong Kong
Caixin: Highlights of CPPCC: “Shutting Power in the Cage”
Information Times (信息时报): 17日上午新总理见中外记者
Sanjin City News (三晋都市报): 1963—2013 学雷锋我行动
Wuhan Evening News (武汉晚报): 你知道雷锋吗?

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