Pictures showing the usually stiff and expressionless President Hu Jintao making simple gestures of compassion while visiting his home area last week have won praise among a mainland public increasingly tired of entitled official behaviour.
Photographs of the outgoing president holding an umbrella for a low-level Communist Party official in Yancheng, Jiangsu, and accepting a hug from a researcher in Taizhou, near Yancheng, were posted on thousands of mainland websites, sometimes with headlines implying how normal such behaviour would seem for regular citizens.
"An astounding moment: president holds umbrella for a village official during his on-the-ground trip in Jiangsu," read one bulletin board on the Beijing-based miercn.com . The woman walking under Hu's umbrella - the president's left arm wrapped around her right - was Hengbei village party secretary Li Xiaoxia, according to her predecessor, Ji Mingde.
It is common to see mainland officials even as low as county level shadowed by umbrella-carrying underlings.
No one could recall having seen Hu carry his own umbrella during his 10 years as president. He is famous for rarely smiling and giving clues about his personality during slogan-filled public appearances.
To highlight the contrast, internet users posted several photos of US President Barack Obama holding an umbrella or simply standing in a downpour.
Many internet users praised Hu's effort to appear less remote. Some suggested the president was showing the same willingness to give up the trappings of power that he did when he allowed the new party chief, Xi Jinping, to take control of the military last month.
"I am so impressed by seeing the picture of [Hu] holding an umbrella for a local official when he paid a visit to a village on a rainy day," wrote an internet user named china86402. "He showed no reluctance to give up his clout [last month]. He is the guy who touched the hearts of Chinese people in 2012."