China's Xi shows common touch with visit to bun restaurant

Diners take pictures of steamed buns which Chinese President Xi ate, at the Qing-Feng steamed buns restaurant in Beijing
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Diners take pictures of steamed buns which Chinese President Xi Jinping ate on Saturday, at the Qing-Feng steamed buns restaurant in Beijing, December 29, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping showed off the common touch on Saturday with a surprise visit to a steamed bun restaurant in Beijing where he paid for his food and happily chatted to surprised customers.

In pictures widely shared on China's Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo, and confirmed by state media, Xi could be seen lining up for his food and posing for photographs, apparently not surrounded by the high security which normally accompanies visits by top leaders.

While such interactions are considered run-of-the-mill in Western countries, they are highly unusual for senior Chinese officials, more used as they are to scenarios carefully stage-managed by the Communist Party's propaganda arm.

Since coming to power as party boss in November and president in March, Xi has demanded officials cut down on waste and extravagance and get closer to the people, as part of a broader campaign to root out pervasive corruption.

State media said that Xi's meal of steamed buns, fried liver and stir-fired greens cost 21 yuan ($3.46), a far cry from the expensive banquets Chinese officials are better known for.

"Uncle Xi is showing that he is one of the people. I approve," wrote one Weibo user.

($1 = 6.0686 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)