Wendi Deng, aka Mrs Rupert Murdoch, showed that you can take the girl out of China, but not China out of the girl.
With a leap and a spike, Deng overnight appeared to have soared into the hearts of many in mainland China who wrote on Sina Weibo (a Chinese Twitter clone):
“Deng Wendi is a pearl among women!”
“Mrs Deng Wendi, you are my idol from now on!”
Maybe it was something about the image of a Chinese woman in a room crammed with mostly white males (at least the part of the room that was broadcast on BBC World Television), jumping up to defend her husband from an errant pie-thrower.
“Every woman has to learn from Deng Wendi. Be an original wife. Be a good mistress. Be a good stepmother. Slap protesters. Be good at socializing in public but also taking care of the home in private. She’s cunning on the inside and strong on the outside. Act like a tiger woman! Holy cow!” (Thanks to TheNanfang.com for these examples.)
But Deng didn’t just defend. She attacked. She pounced. The former volleyball player got right in there with a one-two, according to a Telegraph journalist who sat only ten feet away from the incident: “First, she swung a slap at her husband’s attacker. She followed up by picking up the plate and trying to strike him with it. And then she moved back to her husband.”
And that’s what struck us most about the whole affair. She didn’t go to Murdoch’s defense first. She went on the attack first.
Deng’s lightning response says a lot about her scrappy roots, growing up in a poor town called Xuzhou in Jiangsu Province.
For years, in China, she wasn’t viewed too favorably--mostly because of her image as a social climber, marrying her way out and up. Three times.
But this time she may have turned things around to her advantage—certainly in the English-language media. (And just in time, too, to help promote her new movie, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” which came out last weekend.)
“Crouching Tiger, Flying Murdoch,” ran the Daily Beast headline, featuring a great backgrounder by veteran Newsweek reporter and longtime Beijing resident Melinda Liu.
The New York Times noted she wasn’t one to pull punches.
And Twitter was abuzz with old profiles on the hitherto-aloof Mrs. Murdoch, including a colorful piece by an Australian journalist who traveled back to Xuzhou and other old Deng stomping grounds to interview her classmates and former acquaintances. This particular article apparently was killed after it was commissioned, according to Danwei.org.