BEIJING -- China's new leader, Xi Jinping, impressed many people with a plain-spoken pledge Thursday to address problems in the country's ruling party, but his new leadership team offered few clues of a clear shift in direction.
Mr. Xi, who formally took over from Hu Jintao as Communist Party general secretary, was presented Thursday to foreign and domestic reporters after a highly scripted party congress intended mainly to laud Mr. Hu's work and set broad priorities for Mr. Xi's tenure.
According to tradition, Mr. Xi appeared onstage the day after the congress ended with other members of the party's Politburo Standing Committee, the seven-member body that effectively runs China.
Mr. Xi then gave a speech on live television that avoided most of the slogans that characterized Mr. Hu's recent addresses. In fact, he did not mention Mr. Hu or any predecessors, instead calling on the party to fight corruption and promising to continue China's "rejuvenation."
"Inside the party, there are many problems that need to be addressed, especially the problems among party members and officials of corruption and taking bribes, being out of touch with the people, undue emphasis on formalities and bureaucracy and other issues," Mr. Xi said.
He also pledged to improve citizens' lives, including offering "better schooling, more stable jobs, more satisfying incomes, more reliable social security, higher levels of health care, more comfortable housing conditions and a more beautiful environment," so they can "look forward to their children growing up in better circumstances, finding better work and living in better conditions.
"People's striving for a better life is the goal we are struggling for," he added.
Reflecting his upbringing as the son of a high-ranking official in Beijing, Mr. Xi spoke in clear Mandarin Chinese, making him one of the first modern Chinese leaders whose speech does not bear the heavy accents of an upbringing in one of China's provinces.
Mr. Xi takes office with more titular authority than any Chinese leader in history. He will now be chief of the ruling Communist Party and take over sooner than expected from Mr. Hu as the Central Military Commission chairman, top overseer of China's armed forces. Next spring, he will assume the position of state president. Other leaders in the post-Mao era have had more staggered transitions into the top posts.
Even so, Mr. Xi will have to contend with numerous other well-connected princelings, or sons and daughters of influential past leaders, and a factionalized Communist Party that tends to operate by consensus rather than strongman rule. He is unlikely to have the sweeping authority of Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping.
Although Mr. Xi's appointment has been expected since 2007, when he was essentially named Mr. Hu's successor, it was the first chance for the Chinese to see him in action.
No one can know for sure whether Mr. Xi favors fundamental political changes. What is clear is that his fellow Standing Committee members are longtime party veterans whose track records provide no evidence of a strong impulse to change the way China is governed, and whose ages mean they will probably have relatively short careers in the country's top ruling body.
Mr. Xi is 59 and his No. 2, Li Keqiang, expected to take control of the government's bureaucratic apparatus as prime minister next spring, is 57. But the other five members are all in their mid-60s. Under the party's internal rules, that means they are all likely to retire at the next party congress in five years.
Given the intensely consuming task of negotiating top leadership slots among competing factions, finding suitable replacements for these five could take up much of Mr. Xi's time and political capital.