BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping caused a stir with a weekend visit to a local Beijing restaurant, where he queued and bought his own steamed buns.
In a move apparently aimed at burnishing his everyman credentials, Xi dropped by the popular Qingfeng steamed bun shop on Saturday and paid out of his own pocket for a traditional meal of pork-and-onion buns, green vegetables and fried liver, state media reported.
The total tab for the meal was 21 yuan (S$4.40), according to the Beijing News.
Photos and videos of Xi's visit swiftly made the rounds on the Chinese Internet, with some users greeting the news with surprise and approval in a country where the leaders are rarely seen in public.
"Xi is a pragmatist who is in touch with the people," one user wrote. "Chinese people should support this."
Others responded with scepticism, musing that the staff and other diners in the restaurant during Xi's visit were likely actors or bodyguards and that it was little more than a photo opportunity that said little about whether China's leaders were in touch with ordinary citizens.
"Ask him how much it costs for a pound of steamed buns. Do you think he knows?" wrote one unimpressed user.
"Not to mention the president, but have you ever seen a county official buy their own buns?" wrote another.
Chinese presidents and other top leaders rarely venture beyond Zhongnanhai, the heavily-protected compound which houses the central government headquarters, to mix with ordinary residents of Beijing.
Some likened the move to "impromptu" restaurant visits by US leaders: Vice President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew made headlines during official visits to China in recent years by ordering cheap meals at local Beijing eateries.
Wrote one user in response to those comparisons: "Progress is progress. We don't always have to compare ourselves to the United States."