Xi brings a new affability to the job

In his travels abroad, Xi Jinping has often been something unusual for a Chinese communist leader: an ordinary guy.

In Ireland, he stopped at a stadium to kick a soccer ball around. On a key getting-to-know-you visit to the US, he took several hours to visit with Midwestern families who had hosted him more than a quarter-century before. While visiting schoolchildren in Los Angeles, Xi talked of his love of sports and films and about how finding personal family time was "mission impossible".

And even Thursday in the Great Hall of the People, when he was introduced as the Chinese Communist Party's new secretary general, the most powerful man in the world's most populous nation showed some humility, he apologized to the media for running 45 minutes late.

Xi has an ease and affability that have been lacking from China's leader of the last 10 years, Hu Jintao, though it's unclear whether that will make him a stronger force for change.

"It's the people who have created history...The people are the source of our strength," Xi told reporters at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing.

Tall, heavyset and married to a popular folk singer, Xi's demeanour contrasts with China's typically stiff and aloof leaders.

"He's someone who you can connect with," former US ambassador to Beijing Jon Huntsman said.

A Xi administration is expected to pursue a more forceful foreign policy based on Beijing's belief that its chief rival, Washington, is in decline and that China's rise to global pre-eminence is within reach.

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