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Presidential Profile: Zhu Li

After all these years six long months, the Legend of Korra comics return with Turf Wars: Part 2 on January 17th. Though I’m sure the continuing saga of Asami’s wardrobe, not to mention Varrick’s immaculate immaculate (and very off-screen) plan plan will keep us more than engaged, there is one thing this second volume promises that is worth a look:

“Recovering from the fight and furious for revenge, Triple Threats member Tokuga solidifies his ties with the duplicitous Wonyong. Meanwhile, when Republic City’s housing crisis reaches its peak, Zhu Li sets her sights on the biggest public figure in the city—President Raiko—in a bid for the presidency! With her friend’s success, the future of the spirit portal, and the wellbeing of Republic City’s citizens at stake, can Korra remain neutral and fulfill her duties as the Avatar?”

That’s right, the official description tells us that we are, indeed, getting political campaign shenanigans! It’s certainly been on my wishlist for some time, though I’ll have to admit, Presidential-hopeful Moon is not something I’d ever considered. You’d think out of all the tertiary characters, there’d be more mileage out of someone like Saikhan. Or Grandma Yin.

Yet Varrick’s scarily competent assistant-slash-wife is who we’ve got to give Raiko a run for his yuans. Now, we spent three seasons getting familiar with his approaches to policy, and without sugar coating it: there’s a reason the guy is polling at -3%. Did he even bother vetting Kuvira? But how will Zhu Li hold up in a debate, and will the public find her platform compelling enough to unseat an incumbent?

Poki would be a fine VP pick, if you ask me.

There’s only one way to figure this out…with a good ol’ fashioned political profile, presented by V-SPAN (copyright of Varrick Industries, International).

Political affiliation

The rich world of the Avatar franchise, co-created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, does not have political parties as far as we know. Raiko’s first campaign against The Other Guy no doubt drew support from movers and shakers, but was there any kind of partisanship inherently involved? Dubious.

From what we can tell of with Zhu Li, she has vague technocractic leanings given her service for Kuvira and her pursuit of scientific discovery, but her motives for joining and staying had more to do with her interpersonal relationship. One can also discern a slightly conservative economic policy with slightly liberal social leanings, but it’s most accurate to call her an “independent.”

Political or related experience

Zhu Li holds little formal experience in the way of public office or service. Granted, the democratic United Republic was only formed about four years before this declaration of candidacy, but her career was spent as an assistant to an industrialist/inventor/shipping merchant/conspirator/importer/exporter rather than, say, a Council Page.

In terms of offices held or titles given, she was a Private of the Earth Empire military under Kuvira, denoted by the single chevron on her sleeve.

Not like that fancy second-in-command chevron Bryan had designed for Baatar.

She was in close proximity to Kuvira often, though in terms of rank, she was equal to those dudes Ikki tricked with sweet buns.

This is not to say that Zhu Li is without leadership experience entirely. She (for reasons still unexplained) took charge of distributing supplies in Republic City’s temporary housing, which according to Tenzin was “very impressive.” From a former Councilman, that’s basically an endorsement.

Granted, Zhu Li was not working towards any kind of tangible housing solution beyond resource apportioning until Future Industries owner Asami Sato returned to the city, though she was quick to take up this cause as well, or at least commit Varrick’s money to it.

On the issues

National Security

Zhu Li has a complicated relationship to national security, mostly because it’s completely unclear what nation she’s even from. She worked for Varrick in the Southern Water Tribe for a number of years (wearing what can only be described as businessy Water Tribe duds), her surname and complexion fits more in-line with those from the Earth Kingdom (not to mention, she was accepted into Kuvira’s military campaign, which specifically persecuted those of non-Earth Kingdom origin), and she probably has to have some form of United Republic citizenship, since she’s angling to lead it. So which national security does she prioritize, and has her policy position been consistent?

From the angle of the United Republic, the answer is “mostly.” It’s true that Zhu Li worked for Kuvira, in a military campaign focused on the national security and stability of the Earth Kingdom. However, it was the threats to the United Republic that prompted Zhu Li to act, as opposed to her loyalty to her employer that was her reason for joining in the first place. That said, it’s equally prob-sible that Zhu Li sabotaged the super weapon because it was completely horrifying in its damaging capacity, and it had nothing to do with Kuvira’s plans of invading the United Republic specifically. She also maybe could have just been trying to protect Varrick’s personal discoveries, though surely she would have understood that any innovations under Kuvira’s employment were automatically property of the Earth Empire.

Still, it was sure good of Zhu Li to tell Raiko & others about Kuvira’s plan to attack the city. Clearly she cares about…something regarding security. It’s also worth noting that she has been described as a “cold, heartless war machine” by her employer/husband. If we are to take this to heart, we should expect Zhu Li to be more on the hawkish side of things when it comes to international conflict.  

Health Care

Zhu Li believes every displaced citizen has the right to a blanket. She also emphasizes the role of healers when it comes to healing people, and recognizes how emotional health should be taken into consideration as well.

Education

Zhu Li has not made her positions on education entirely clear, though her time serving under Varrick shows her commitment to scientific discovery. She even allows herself to be used as a unit of measurement for what we can assume to be mass. It is likely she would be in favor of everyone having some kind of education, if nothing else than to help push science further.

It must be reiterated, though, that she remains to explicate a formal policy position at all in this realm, though we are still waiting on Raiko to present his as well.

The Economy

Zhu Li appears to be in favor of limited government spending and revenue, instead preferring the private sector to take a large role in public services. For instance, she joined Asami in offering Varrick’s money to fund a housing project for the displaced people of Republic City. By all accounts this is utterly absurd given the level of capital investment required, so we have to assume she wouldn’t have pursued this path without strong convictions, and possibly a heavily deregulated private sector. It’s logical to assume that she would not seek to impose additional restrictions, regulations, or taxes on companies if put in office.

As for individual taxes, Zhu Li has in the past been in favor of handouts to elevate public mood.

Given how she doesn’t view the government as fiscally responsible for providing housing to the evacuated citizens of the city, it’s doubtful she would have many public works projects planned. As a result, we can assume lower individual taxes, since the government wouldn’t need much in the way of revenue.

Women’s Rights

It is difficult to tell Zhu Li’s position on women’s rights in a general sense, but in a personal sense, this is a topic where we’ve seen her views evolve. She began her career willing to perform demeaning tasks without question, and even willingly serving jail-time (unless there were charges facing her too, in which case it was willingly committing treason by helping to kidnap the President) in service of her employer. Her stated reason was because he has the “most brilliant mind,” but that level of devotion is something that should be questioned in a leader. After all, would Varrick Industries be profiting off of a Moon presidency?

However, critics should rest a bit easy, as Zhu Li did come to realize her unfair treatment. She did not comply with Varrick’s request for her to hold her breath, and also insisted that she be promoted from assistant and treated as an equal within Varrick Industries. While this is extrapolation, it would make sense if Zhu Li was supportive of similar workplace protections and upwards mobility for female workers.

Crime

Zhu Li has a problematic track record with criminal justice, particular when it comes to the crimes of those close to her. She aided in Varrick’s escape from jail (and possibly her own), and then helped him seek refuge in the city of Zaofu, where he continued to dodge legal repercussions from his planned kidnapping of President Raiko. Supporters will be quick to point out that Varrick (and probably Zhu Li as well) received pardons relating to this illegal activity, but that does not make these actions any more legal at the time.

Later, Zhu Li worked with Hiroshi Sato, who had been pulled out of prison prior to completing his sentence. Granted, this was a temporary measure enacted by the chief of police, but critics of Moon’s candidacy point to this as a “soft-on-crime” pattern.

Immigration

Much like her stance on national security, Zhu Li has a dubious track record regarding immigration. It’s true that she ultimately worked to defeat the Earth Empire, but this wasn’t immediate upon Kuvira’s declaration, and the reeducation camps were hardly a new feature. Zhu Li has not stated whether or not she was ignorant towards Kuvira’s targeting of non-Earth Kingdom citizens, but if she was (like many others in the inner circle), then this would suggest an indifference to immigrant rights.

That said, Zhu Li’s experience with the Earth Kingdom may be irrelevant in the United Republic, given the nature of the nation as one of immigrants. Further, there were bound to be immigrants among those displaced in the temporary housing camps, and yet Zhu Li was most focused on everyone’s comfort. It’s unclear if this indicates a more compassionate or utilitarian approach to immigration, but it would be misguided simply to assume her position on this only by her role in the Earth Empire’s army.

Environmental Protection

Zhu Li had a strong dedication to Varrick and worked alongside him with numerous projects that had a positive environmental benefit. Most famously, this includes magnet trains and what is now known as the “spirit weapon.” However, it should be noted in the latter case that its original purpose was to provide the Earth Kingdom/Empire with a clean and reliable energy source. It is likely a President Moon would support continuing environmental research.

Independent and Free Earth Kingdom States

Zhu Li has no stated position on this. She did work to reunify the Earth Kingdom under a King Wu, but as has been covered, defected and showed no continuing loyalty to this goal. Given the major economic and political impact of the dissolving of the monarchy, we can expect this to be a hot issue on the campaign trail.

Key advisors

Zhu Li has not released any official statements about who her cabinet picks might be. However, as of the evacuation of Republic City, she has been working closely with Asami Sato, Avatar Korra, Master Tenzin, and her own opponent, President Raiko. This might suggest little change in the way of advisors. However, the biggest question that remains is the role her husband Varrick would take in this administration. Critics are skeptical to this point, especially given how her stated motivation for much of her professional life was to benefit and support him.

Statements

  • “I pretended to be loyal to Kuvira so I could sabotage her weapon. It didn’t work, but I did overhear her plans to attack.”
  • “Sounds like a visit from the Avatar was exactly what the evacuees needed”
  • “These evacuees have lost everything. So let’s make sure they feel as comfortable as possible.”
  • “I was blindly devoted to Varrick, and I looked past all the times he ridiculed me, or ordered me around, or made me clean his disgusting feet—because I thought he possessed the most brilliant mind in the world.”

In Summation

Zhu Li’s lack of experience works against her, as well as her inconsistencies in stance, devotion to Varrick, and the many unknowns surrounding her platform. However, with President Raiko polling so lowly, and no one else declaring a candidacy for some reason, this is someone to keep an eye on. This profile should serve voters well, as they make a hard decision.


Images courtesy of Viacom and Dark Horse Comics

Author

  • Kylie

    Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.

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