Vice-President Xi Jinping has criticised cadres for putting the pursuit of personal power and individual gain ahead of their duties and warned that such extravagances could weaken the Communist Party's six-decade hold on power.
The remarks - published yesterday in Qiushi Journal, the party's leading policy magazine - come ahead of Xi's expected elevation to the party's top post this autumn at the 18th national party congress. They were widely seen as a response to corruption scandals, including the saga surrounding former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai.
Some party leaders, Xi said, had followed their pursuit of personal gain into an 'abyss of corruption', and called for a strengthening of provincial party organisations.
'Numerous experiences in history have taught us that a country or family can either succeed for its austerity or fail for its luxury,' said Xi. 'We communists should heed this warning.'
In the article - titled 'Always Maintaining and Giving Full Play to the Party's Unique Advantages' - Xi said he believed the party could overcome deteriorating morals among some officials and continue to lead a nation that it had helped build into the world's second-largest economy.
But Xi emphasised the need for more so-called intraparty democracy, which has included giving lower-level members more say over who holds certain posts.
'[We must] resolutely overcome the phenomenon of individuals [in regional party committees] making arbitrary decisions and taking peremptory actions and being feeble and slack, which goes against the principle of democratic centralisation,' Xi said.
The article comes at a critically sensitive time as top retired and current leaders are gathering to hammer out the final leadership line-up before a key transition of power at the party congress.
Analysts said the prominence the magazine gave Xi's speech suggested the incoming party leader was seeking to consolidate his position. 'The publication of the article at the time suggests Xi want to strengthen his grip over the ideological front,' said Hu Xingdou , a commentator with the Beijing Institute of Technology.
Hu said Xi seemed to be making an obvious reference to Bo, who was ousted as Chongqing party secretary in March and later stripped of his Politburo membership for what the central leadership said were 'serious breaches of party discipline'.
The sensation over Bo's ousting has gripped the nation and disrupted plans for a drama-free transition this year. Until his fall, Bo, like Xi, was the prominent 'princeling' son of a famous revolutionary-era figure and was considered a shoo-in for promotion to the supreme Politburo Standing Committee.
Bo's family reportedly amassed a fortune as a party boss and he was accused of disregarding the rule of law in a controversial anti-triad push.