"Xi's directive to officials to improve their work style and decrease their pomp and privileges is a challenge to the system, resonating with public anger and giving voice to public frustration," said China analyst and author Robert Lawrence Kuhn.
The list of public grievances is long, including rampant graft and corruption, environmental degradation and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
China this week approved sweeping income distribution reforms to make state-owned enterprises and the rich pay more in taxes.
The government pledged to double the average real income of urban and rural residents by 2020 from the 2010 level.
Many Chinese cities are poised to increase workers' minimum wage -- in southern Guangdong province, as much as 14% starting in May -- to put more disposable income into the hands of more Chinese. The goal: to boost domestic consumption and narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.
Will Xi's gambit work, and will it last?
It's too early to say. Still, analysts give Xi credit for trying.
"For Xi to do so much so quickly to differentiate the new generation of leaders from the previous one is quite startling, unprecedented in a one-party political system that claims no-surprise, long-term continuity as a virtue," explained Kuhn.
He says Xi has no choice but to back change.
"Reform is change, and change is risk," he explained. "But in China now, perhaps for the first time, the risk of not reforming is higher than the risk of reforming. Xi Jinping knows this."