Expensive meals and showy official trips are being banned across the country as local authorities scramble to conform to Communist Party chief Xi Jinping's call to streamline the bureaucracy and cut waste and extravagance.
At least 17 provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, have rolled out detailed guidelines to follow through on Xi's "eight rules" on official behaviour, according to People's Daily, the party's mouthpiece. Authorities in the rest of the country, including Chongqing, Guangdong, Shanghai, and Tianjin, have all pledged to do so soon.
The rules adopted by the new 25-member Politburo early last month appear aimed at appeasing mounting popular anger over an avalanche of social ills, with official corruption and injustice among the top public concerns.
Measures subsequently adopted by central and local governments have generally received loud applause, although they have been mostly concerned with controlling cadres' behaviour, rather than limiting their almost unbridled power, as many in the public would desire.
Like Xi's rules banning red carpets, empty speeches and traffic controls during officials' trips, local authorities have promised to reduce ostentation. Authorities in Anhui, for instance, said provincial leaders must spend a month visiting grass-roots areas every year. Top officials in Jiangsu and Gansu were required to spend at least 60 days on inspection trips.
In Beijing, the retinues of top officials during trips within the municipality were restricted to no more than five city-level officials, plus a maximum of three district- or county-level officials. They have also been banned from attending unnecessary public events and ceremonies.
Hubei authorities said no provincial meetings should be held during harvest, or flood or drought season. Anhui went a step further, declaring that no meetings could be convened during the first week of each month. Provincial meetings, with few exceptions, should last no more than two days.
Local authorities also announced restrictions on how leading cadres should be treated during their visits, from having buffet meals without liquor to protocol details such as bans on banners, cheering crowds and expensive hotel suites.
In Xinjiang, the regional government has even limited publicly funded dinners to 45 minutes.
Many local governments, including Hunan and Xinjiang, also vowed to phase out expensive foreign-brand vehicles and to buy cheaper local brands instead.
Analysts and mainland internet users have expressed scepticism about the guidelines, which many saw simply as a public relations effort amid a looming crisis over the ruling party's credibility and legitimacy.
"Who has the authority to keep top leaders at all levels on a leash when they are targeted by the measures?" asked Professor Zhu Lijia, of the Chinese Academy of Governance. "Is there anyone who still believes such self-examination and self-discipline can work?"