BEIJING, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) - Xi Jinping was sanguine and displayed an easy smile as he assumed leadership of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) Thursday.
Standing in front of a giant painting of the majestic Great Wall dotted with red autumn leaves, Xi was introduced as the newly elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee Thursday at the Great Hall of the People.
Xi was joined on the stage by the other six standing committee members, who will form the Party's core leadership. Xi was also named chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission.
The group debut of the new leadership line-up sparked immediate curiosity in global cyberspace. Many think 59-year-old Xi -- as China's first top leader to be born after the founding of the People's Republic -- will bring fresh air to the world's economic powerhouse.
"I've got a man crush on Xi. He'll be a great pitchman for China's rise, I suspect," said Shai Oster, a Hong Kong-based reporter, on his Twitter account.
A virally retweeted picture online also gave a hint of Xi's easy style. In the picture, the vice president -- dressed in a dark overcoat and a suit -- kicked a Gaelic football in Dublin's Croke Park with professional goalkeeper footwork. The photo was taken when he visited Ireland in February.
"I believe Xi's kick can change the future of Chinese football," a web user named "My September Sky" wrote on Weibo, a Twitter-like service in China.
Xi was ranked among the 100 most influential figures of 2012 by Time Magazine, along with Barack Obama, Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets and Argentina soccer star Messi.
The ranking acknowledges that Xi enjoys great influence. However, he also faces huge challenges as China's new leader.
One of his biggest challenges is how to maintain the country's economic winning streak of more than 30 years.
Xi seems to agree.
When speaking with reporters at noon, he said that the responsibility of the leadership lies in "taking the relay baton passed on to us by history and making continued efforts to achieve the great renewal of the Chinese nation."
Xi has already been praised for his straightforward approach.
"Xi Jinping's speech was refreshingly brief and free of jargon," tweeted Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times Beijing bureau chief.
The situation Xi is inheriting from Hu Jintao has many strengths, including the country's strong manufacturing capability, its huge trade surplus and a growing national eagerness to revitalize the age-old country that "has endured untold hardship and suffering in modern times."
However, the country's expanding middle class is calling for China's version of the "American Dream." As Xi put it, all the people are craving "better education, more stable jobs, higher salaries, better social welfare, better medical and health care, improved housing conditions and a better environment."
"The objective is clear .Now we're waiting for his actions," "zhongguominjian" posted on Weibo.
Scott Kennedy, director of the Research Center for Chinese Politics & Business at Indiana University in the U.S., described to Xinhua the challenges he thinks China's leadership is facing. "The leadership will have to reform the education system to genuinely promote creativity and innovation, reduce the privileges of state-owned enterprises, reduce the gap between rich and poor, aggressively take on corruption, and vastly expand the transparency of the political system," he said.
Kennedy also said the leadership must manage relations with the U.S., which feels growing uneasiness over China's economic growth, as it intensifies its political and military presence in Asia.
Xi, in his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on May 3, said the two major powers should not only have determination and confidence, "but also the patience and wisdom of 'crossing a river by feeling the stones.'"
FOUNDATIONS OF LEADERSHIP
In 1969, Xi was sent to a remote village in northwest China' s Shaanxi Province, an early CPC base, as a result of the Cultural Revolution. He farmed with peasants there from 1969 to 1975. Xi joined the CPC in that small village in 1974.
Xi later became deputy Party head of Zhengding County, Hebei Province, in 1982. In 1985, as the county's Party head, Xi made his first trip to the U.S., seeking advanced agricultural know-how for the county.
He later served as Party chief of Fuzhou, capital of southeast China's Fujian Province, from 1990-1996.
In recent years, Xi has made broad international contacts.
As Party chief of Shanghai for five months in 2007, Xi met with CEOs from Siemens, Carrefour, Citibank, Standard Chartered, Morgan Stanley, Blackstone Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Xi also met with Muhtar Kent and Robert Iger, CEOs of Coca Cola and Walt Disney, respectively, in the Great Hall of the People after being elected vice president in March 2008.
During his term as vice president, a position he still holds, Xi has traveled to numerous countries, including Italy, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Vietnam, Angola, South Africa, Mexico, Ireland and the U.S.
In February this year, Xi visited the U.S., emphasizing the importance of China-U.S. relations.
At a luncheon in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 15 this year, Xi said that China-U.S. relations have "experienced ups and downs, but the general trend is moving forward." Xi said, "As a Chinese poet put it, 'green hills can't block it, and after all, it is flowing eastward.'"
While in the U.S., Xi showed his interest in getting to know and understand the country.
He went to Muscatine, Iowa and met with Eleanor and Tom Dvorchak, who had hosted him on their farm during his first visit to the U.S. in 1985.
Dr. Hu Xiaobo, professor of politics with the Center for China Studies at Clemson University in the U.S., said he was "much impressed" by Vice President Xi, after meeting Xi during his visit.
"He seemed a natural leader, with his homework well done and ready to reach out to others at ease. He presented himself as an engaging diplomat, candid and humane," Hu said.
"Xi genuinely understood the realities in China. He could appreciate the dramatic changes over the past 30 years and could engage with people from all walks of life," Hu said.
Xi's experiences have solidified his unbending commitment to work for the people's interests.
"We must always be of the same mind with the people and share the same destiny with them, and we must work together with them and diligently for the public good," Xi said to the press Thursday.
Despite Xi's wide-ranging travels, however, Xi credits his youthful experience in the hills of Shaanxi Province with transforming him into the person he is today
In an autobiographical article published in the anthology, "Old Pictures of Educated Youth," Xi wrote: "My success hails from northern Shaanxi. I came to realize at that time what reality is and I thus gained confidence."
He entitled the article: "I am always a son of the Yellow Earth."