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China Leaders Pledge Clean Government

Both Xi's speech and Li's news conference were nationally televised. In them, they showed personality differences with their predecessors. Xi appeared more commanding and comfortable with his authority than his predecessor, Hu Jintao. Li was more direct and plainly spoken if less sympathetic than the grandfatherly Wen Jiabao, who larded his news conferences with references to classical poetry.

Li also gave a hint of his fluency in English. At one point he corrected a translator for saying "thank you" at the end of a translation when Li had not said it. The 57-year-old also recalled having been exiled to work in a poor rural village in his teens in the 1970s, like many in his generation under Mao Zedong's radical rule, before market reforms and the reopening of universities brought change.

The reforms, he said, "have lifted hundreds of millions of peasants out of poverty and it has changed the life course of many individuals, including me."

Both events were heavily scripted. Questions by Chinese and foreign reporters at Li's 115-minute news conference were largely prearranged and prescreened. Still, in a system where interactions between the leadership and the media are rare, the premier's sole news conference of the year provides a window into the leaders' personalities and thinking.

"It takes time to see if he can do a good job or not, but the language, logic and way of expression finally rid themselves of the shadow of old times. It's not easy," Xie Wen, a technology entrepreneur, said on his Sina Corporation (SINA) micro-blog, which has 164,000 followers.

In talking tough about corruption, Li did not mention calls from experts to introduce public disclosure of official assets nor media reports about the huge wealth amassed by the family members of many in the communist elite.

"Clean government should start with oneself. Only when one is upright in oneself can he or she ask others to be upright. This is an ancient adage, but also the truth," Li said. "Since we have chosen government service we should give up the thought of making money. We will readily accept the supervision of the whole society and the media."

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