BEIJING has observed the 72nd birthday of the Chinese Communist Party with a pledge to curb corruption, deemed the nation's most serious problem.
The Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI), the nation's highest anti-corruption organ, has also issued national orders to crack down hard on graft.
Observers in the capital said yesterday in keeping with the austere mood of the nation brought about by hyperinflation and the growing resentment against ''the exchange of power for money'', celebrations were low key.
The People's Daily editorial quoted patriarch Deng Xiaoping as warning that corruption could pose a lethal threat to the party.
''We have made considerable achievements in economic construction and the situation is pleasing,'' Mr Deng, 88, was quoted as saying. ''This is the success of the country.
''Yet if the [party] style continues to deteriorate, what will be the point of a successful economy?'' The patriarch warned that the nature of the party would be corrupted, and economic work would be adversely affected.
''If the trend goes on, it will become a world where corruption and theft hold sway,'' he said.
Chinese sources said in spite of his failing health, Mr Deng had in recent months discussed the corruption problem with his aides and children.
The editorial said: ''Strengthening the building of the party's style of work is a matter the whole party and the people of the whole country are concerned about most.'' The national press yesterday gave a big play to President Jiang Zemin's address to outstanding party members, which had as one of its major themes the fight against corruption.
Reflecting the instructions of Mr Deng, Mr Jiang said the masses were ''very dissatisfied'' with the phenomenon of corruption.
''If we do not take resolute action to curb corruption, and let it worsen, we shall destroy the enterprise of reform and the open door, and eventually jeopardise the party's ruling status,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the CCDI has sent out a circular asking disciplinary and supervision departments of all levels to focus on anti-corruption work.
''Top leaders must personally grasp [the work of fighting graft] to ensure that there will be breakthroughs in investigation work in the near term,'' the circular said.
''This will serve to educate party members and cadres and encourage the masses.'' China analysts said in the last two weeks, the media had featured a large number of graft cases involving middle-level cadres.
However, the analysts said the authorities had failed to dent the popular perception that police and disciplinary organs were powerless against cadres with good family and political connections.
As well as Mr Deng, party elders including Chen Yun, Peng Zhen and Song Ping have recently given instructions on fighting corruption.
Western diplomats said apart from the popular backlash, the Deng faction of moderate reformists was worried the conservative wing would make use of the corruption issue to attack the reform programme.