The Mao-suited President stages a huge, highly choreographed show to celebrate the People's Republic's 50th anniversary
Navigate through the People's Republic of China and discover the 50 places where history was made
Chinese president Jiang Zemin can recite the Gettysburg Address from memory, play a mean erhu and speak a fair bit of Romanian. If he could manage all three feats simultaneously, he might qualify for a guest spot on an American late-night TV show. And that, at least, could be a start at solving one of Jiang's more pressing problems: few people outside of China know much about him. And even those who recognize him--those owlish glasses are, for better or worse, a defining characteristic--see him as bland and uninteresting.
For a man who aspires to be a world statesman, this is surely unacceptable. So we asked political consultants in Washington and Hong Kong how they would burnish the Chinese President's image. Here are some of their suggestions:
Jiang's mentor Deng Xiaoping looked cute and cuddly when famously photographed in a Stetson, but Jiang appeared foolish when he tried on a three-cornered American colonial hat. Bad hats make even good politicians look like clowns, says Paul Begala, who until recently looked after U.S. President Bill Clinton's image.
Preferably Italian. Jiang's baggy suits say Ministry of Metallurgical Industry. China is now about business, so suits must be solid grays or blue pin-stripes--please, no browns. Leave the thick rubber-soled shoes on the farm and order footwear from London.
Good clothes help sharpen a politician's image, but fresh ideas really gain attention. An expert ghost writer can gloss over Jiang's hard-line political views and dwell on his ideas for turning drab collective farms into cheerful mom-and-pop plots. There's a great hunger for books about China, and if Jiang can explain his vision, people will take notice, says Mike Deaver, a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan.
Is it possible Jiang's been donning funny local hats to try to cover up his oil-slicked 'do? Pulling out a comb to touch up the stray hairs, as Jiang did during an official welcoming by King Juan Carlos of Spain, doesn't help promote a statesmanlike image. Someone should tell the President that grooming belongs backstage.
Yes, they are Jiang's signature piece, but the oversized, fashion-challenged spectacles aren't winning him much respect. It looks like he woke up in the morning and picked up his wife's by mistake says Giles Blanchard, a brand-development consultant in Hong Kong. On the other hand, Jiang seems to manage ruling 1.3 billion people pretty well, glasses, funny hats and all.