Guangdong party boss Wang Yang has joined a growing chorus of political heavyweights pledging their allegiance to the party's central leadership after the controversial ousting of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai last month.
In a meeting of senior party officials in the province this week, Wang asked his top associates to keep a clear head and to stand their ground on fundamental matters of right and wrong, reports in media outlets such as the Guangzhou Daily said.
Wang is the fourth contender for a seat on the powerful Politburo Standing Committee to declare his loyalty to the leadership recently. The others are the new Chongqing party chief, Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang, Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng and the party's organisation chief, Li Yuanchao .
Wang asked his deputies to 'keep a sober mind in fundamental matters of right and wrong, maintain a firm stance on the main policy principles and spare no effort in keeping their thoughts, objectives and actions consistent' with the central leadership's.
Zhang, Yu and Li made similar statements this week. They, too, called on officials to firmly maintain their righteous political stances and to keep clear heads on fundamental issues of right and wrong.
The state-run People's Daily and the People's Liberation Army Daily, a mouthpiece of the army, made similar calls this week for senior cadres to maintain their political stances and to unite under the party's central leadership.
Analysts said the high-profile campaign by top officials and state media is a concerted effort by the central leadership to demonstrate consensus within itself over its abrupt decision to sack the maverick Bo, which had triggered concerns about a power struggle and possible split within the leadership in the run-up to this autumn's party congress, which will bring about a once-in-a-decade transfer of power.
'The frequent remarks by top officials and the publicity by state media are aimed at fostering an image of solidarity within the party over the Chongqing reshuffle,' said commentator Hu Xingdou , professor of politics at Beijing University of Technology.
Hu said the party leadership's top priority was to make the leadership transition less contentious and to ensure that the new top team is as 'harmonious' as possible.
Wang had long been seen as Bo's arch-rival for a spot on the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee - the party's innermost circle.
The two men engaged in an open debate, rare in elite Chinese politics, last year, trading indirect insults and criticisms.
Bo maintained that China should focus more on the distribution of wealth rather than the 'cutthroat' development seen in the past few decades. But Wang, whose province has been the engine of China's growth, retorted that growing the economy and free-market reform must remain the priorities.
Bo's crackdown on triads and official corruption in Chongqing intensified their rivalry and embarrassed Wang, who was Bo's predecessor in the southwestern megacity.
Analysts have said Bo's downfall was not entirely the result of his leftist ideology, which has been endorsed by many senior leaders, but was due more to his defiance of the central leadership and engagement in a self-promotion campaign, considered taboo within the party.