Xi Jinping's campaign to keep the Communist Party in touch with the people saw the president himself standing in a restaurant queue to buy pork buns yesterday.
A supposedly impromptu visit to the Beijing branch of the Qingfeng Steamed Stuffed Bun Shop chain saw Xi standing in line to order his own 21 yuan (HK$26.60) meal of six steamed pork buns, a cold vegetable dish and a bowl of pig-liver-and-intestines soup - all traditional northern dishes - and pay for them out of his own pocket, according to a report in The Beijing News.
The appearance seemed to some commentators to be straight out of the public relations playbook of visiting Western officials, who often attract public attention to themselves by dining at casual eateries.
Some commentators on Sina Weibo compared it to the ancient emperors' practice of venturing undercover beyond the Forbidden City.
Others cast doubt on the event's spontaneity.
"This must be a show and all the diners actors and actresses," one internet user said, commenting on pictures posted on the internet that quickly went viral - with an added boost from state news agency Xinhua, party mouthpiece the People's Daily and other state media outlets.
Such spontaneous visits by top party officials are rare but not unheard of. Former premier Wen Jiabao , for instance, shared dumplings with coal miners ahead of the Lunar New Year in 2005.
Xi has been determined to portray himself as a man of the people since taking office.
"Xi is trying to bridge the gulf between the much- maligned Communist Party cadres and the masses," said Zhang Lifan , a Beijing-based historian.
In June, Xi launched a year-long "mass line" campaign - party jargon coined by late leader Mao Zedong to describe the need for the party to stay in touch with the people.