President Xi Jinping said yesterday that low-level officials - who are often the public's first and only contact with the Communist Party - would be the next focus of his campaign to root out extravagance and corruption.
Speaking at a conference attended by officials and military officers from around the country, Xi called for more steps to reconnect the party at the grass-roots level and eliminate decadence among rank-and-file cadres.
"Shoddy foundations lead to great turbulence," Xi said, according to state media. "It is a must that we make an effort to tackle the corruption problems closest to the people and seriously address various problems that hurt the public interests, to protect the legal rights of the people."
The focus on low-level officials was described as the next phase of the "mass line" campaign Xi launched in June. The president borrowed party-building method from party patriarch Mao Zedong , who preached the importance of getting in touch with the masses.
Xi declared the first phase of his initiative against "formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance" as a success, but said more work was needed. "It is easy for the frugal to become extravagant, but very difficult to reverse the progress," Xi said.
The campaign has coincided with a massive corruption crackdown that has widened to include former security tsar Zhou Yongkang , a retired member of the supreme Politburo Standing Committee.
Zhang Ming , a political science professor at Renmin University, said it was appropriate to target grass-roots cadres in the next phase of the campaign.
"I myself thought it wasn't going to be effective and would be a mere formality when it was announced," Zhang said. "But it seems it has indeed made some difference. Many party members and cadres now watch their own behaviour a bit more carefully."
Xi separately attended a Lunar New Year gala with numerous veteran military officers yesterday - a high-profile event that comes amid media reports about the graft scandal surrounding former deputy logistics chief Gu Junshan .
The CCTV evening newscast showed Xi entering an auditorium followed by several retired members of the Central Military Commission, including two of Gu's former superiors, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong . But both officials were hidden behind Xi in a picture released later by Xinhua.