In its first white paper documenting its fight against official corruption, Beijing vowed to strengthen efforts but acknowledged that the task of building a clean government is 'complicated and arduous'.
Meanwhile, the ruling Communist Party stepped up its anti-corruption drive against the rank and file in the armed forces, according to a new trial regulation published yesterday. It will be applied to party members and officials, especially party chiefs in the People's Liberation Army and the People's Armed Police.
President and party General Secretary Hu Jintao and other party leaders have warned that widespread official graft could threaten the party's hold on power.
From 2003 to 2009, prosecutors at all levels investigated more than 240,000 cases of embezzlement, bribery, dereliction of duty and rights infringement, the document said.
From January to November this year, the party's discipline watchdog investigated 119,000 graft cases, resulting in 113,000 people being punished, of whom 4,332 were prosecuted, Wu Yuliang, secretary general of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, told a press conference yesterday.
From 2005 until 2009, more than 69,200 cases of commercial bribery - involving some 16.59 billion yuan (HK$19.45 billion) - were investigated, the white paper said. Last year, 7,036 officials were held responsible for serious mistakes, breaches of duty, and failing to manage and supervise subordinates, it said.
The preface to the 39-page document says the government has 'always kept a clear vision of the long, complicated and arduous nature' of the anti-corruption undertaking and addressed both the 'symptoms and root causes of corruption'. It said China will continue to perfect the system of punishment and prevention, including implementing 'more resolutions and powerful measures'.
But sceptics have questioned the long-term efficacy of such anti-graft campaigns, with efforts in past decades only resulting in growing malpractice. Dissidents and political scientists say the root problems - one-party rule without an independent judiciary and free press - are yet to be addressed.
Corruption has been the chief reason for public discontent in recent years. While trying to soothe public anger, the party has also launched campaigns to crack down on press freedom and freedom of expression, with the government becoming increasingly uneasy that widespread discontent over endemic corruption, a yawning income gap and social injustice will undermine its rule.
Widespread abuse of public spending on official vehicles is also a focus of anger, with many believing the country's huge fleet of official cars has contributed significantly to traffic congestion in most cities.
Wu said the party watchdog would introduce stricter rules on the purchase and use of official cars.
'I can assure you that the standards [of the vehicles] will be generally lower and the number will be less next year as we will tighten the management of government vehicles,' Wang said in answer to a question raised one day after a Politburo meeting chaired by Hu identified official vehicles as one of the targets for next year's anti-corruption drive.