Ivanka charm works on China

Ivanka Trump attends US President Donald Trump's strategy and policy forum with chief executives of major US companies at the White House in Washington.
Ivanka Trump attends US President Donald Trump's strategy and policy forum with chief executives of major US companies at the White House in Washington. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • US President Donald Trump talks tough on China but his daughter Ivanka is winning Chinese friends and is set to influence bilateral ties, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Quoting Chinese analysts, the newspaper said the 35-year-old businesswoman, who confirmed last Wednesday that she would be an unpaid adviser in her father's administration, played an important role in helping to counter her father's combative approach towards Beijing.

The former model has been on a charm offensive with China, using her kids to woo the Chinese public.

In February, as observers wondered why Mr Trump did not follow precedent and send a personal Lunar New Year greeting to the Chinese community, Ms Trump made a surprise visit to the Chinese embassy in Washington with her daughter, Arabella Kushner, five.

Ms Trump also posted a video on Instagram of Arabella singing a new year song in Mandarin as she swayed, holding a red dragon puppet on strings. Then on Monday, she posted a picture on Instagram celebrating her son Theodore's first birthday by sharing Chinese "long life" noodles, with the caption: "Birthday tradition! #noodlesforlonglife."

Ms Trump's public displays of affection for Chinese culture were proving effective with the Chinese, analysts were quoted as saying in SCMP. "Ivanka Trump has quite a positive image among Chinese," said Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies research fellow Liu Weidong.

"She caters to the emotional needs that the Chinese people have due to the uncertainties of the Sino-US diplomatic relationship."

Fudan University international relations professor Ren Xiao said her White House appointment could benefit ties between the two nations.

"Donald Trump obviously trusts his daughter and his son-in-law a lot," Prof Ren said. "The couple are likely to recommend a more respectful and careful approach when dealing with China."

Mainland state media has also heaped praise on Ms Trump, including Xinhua's strange tweet last month comparing her face with that of Chinese actress Li Bingbing.

Xinhua on Tuesday posted photos on its website of Ms Trump's visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, with a headline describing her as "elegant, with gracious style".

Chinese media used similar terms of endearment to describe Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping, and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Britain's Prince William, the SCMP said.

It quoted Shanghai University media professor Dai Yuanguang as saying the words used were "a rather high compliment" and could be seen as goodwill from Beijing just days ahead of next week's summit between Mr Trump and Mr Xi.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Ivanka charm works on China'. Print Edition | Subscribe