Some observers have expressed hope that the next decade could bring a degree of political reform as Chinese leaders seek to bolster their legitimacy, which has been eroded by widespread corruption and the dramatic scandal this year involving the former senior party official Bo Xilai.
But many analysts are skeptical about the willingness of leaders to adopt significant changes, noting the concentration of power and money at the top of the party. The new set of leaders appears set to uphold the status quo, according to Willy Lam, a history professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
"By and large, we have a conservative team," Lam said following the announcement of the new Standing Committee. "We can expect no substantial or meaningful movement toward political reform."
The new leaders are likely to be "in favor of staying the course, maintaining political stability and defusing challenges to the party's authority," he said.
The new Standing Committee is more streamlined than its previous incarnation, dropping for nine members to seven. The smaller committee may help bring about greater unity and efficiency at the top of the party, some experts say.
Besides Xi and Li, the members of the elite committee are Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli.
The new lineup shows that Jiang Zemin, the 86-year-old former party chief who preceded Hu, still maintains heavy clout in the Communist hierarchy, said Cheng Li, director of research at the John L. Thornton Center at the Brookings Institution.
The composition of the committee is "not a surprise but a disappointment," he said, adding that it was dominated by people loyal to Jiang.
He said some Chinese people would be disappointed about the decision not to include Liu Yuanchao and Wang Yang, senior officials who he described as "strong advocates for political reform."
The next chance to refresh the Standing Committee's membership will occur in five years, when the Communist Party's next National Congress takes place.
For the time being, the committee remains a men's club with no woman among its new members. Since the Standing Committee's creation in 1949, no woman has ever held a position on it.
Despite speculation that Liu Yandong, the lone female member of the wider Politburo, might be tapped for the elite group, she was not among the seven members who marched across the stage Thursday.
Her age may have been a disadvantage in her candidacy, according to the Hoover Institution, which is based at Stanford University. Liu was born in 1945 and has been a member of the Politburo since 2007.
Women lag in political representation in China. Only 2.2% of working women were in charge of the state offices, party organizations and other enterprises or institutions, according to the Third Survey on Chinese Women's Social Status, a national survey released last year.
The number of women on the 25-member Politburo has increased, though, from one to two: Sun Chunlan, the party secretary of Fujian province, joins Liu, who was already a member.
The reaction from China's neighbors to the unveiling of the new leadership reflected its complicated relationships in the Asia-Pacific region.
Japan, which is locked in a tense territorial dispute with China over a group of small islands in the East China Sea, said it hoped "the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interest will be further developed and enhanced with the new leadership."
Kim Jong Un, the young leader of North Korea, sent a message congratulating Xi on his new position, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Kim's message stressed the long "friendship" between the two countries. China is the reclusive North Korean regime's main ally, providing it with vital economic support.