Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping pledged yesterday to crack down on senior and low-ranking corrupt officials and enhance checks and balances on officials' power by "confining them in the cage" of a regulatory system.
Xinhua reported that in a strongly worded speech at the plenary session of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in Beijing, Xi said that in the war against graft, "we should persist in beating tigers in tandem with the flies".
"On one hand we are resolute in investigating the party's leading figures when they are found to be involved in violations of party discipline and the laws of the country," Xi said. "On the other, we keep effectively tackling malpractices and solving bribe-taking issues, which have plagued the general public in their daily life."
Several regional senior officials - including former Sichuan deputy party secretary Li Chuncheng - have been investigated on suspicion of corruption since Xi became party chief in November.
"Power should be confined in a cage," Xi said, calling on officials to step up measures to monitor and rein in abuse of power and establish a mechanism to prevent corruption taking root in the first place, Xinhua reported.
Xi also called on local authorities to stick closely to and carry out the party line set by the Central Committee, and warned them against trying to get around any of its orders. "Nobody and no department should be allowed to disregard policies introduced by the Central Committee," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying. "The party will never tolerate any compromise made by officials or departments in carrying out decisions of the Central Committee."
Central Committee edicts were often ignored under Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao , with some commentators saying that Hu's control did not extend beyond the walls of Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound in the heart of Beijing.
Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University of Hong Kong, said real change would require the introduction of press freedom and endowing people's congresses at different levels with more real power, "making them play a role in monitoring the exercise of power and the implementation of policy".
"I cannot see how Xi could achieve such objectives in a system short of democratic supervision," Cheng said.
Hong Kong-based analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu said given the complicated and structural nature of the problem and the vested-interest groups, he was not optimistic about the anti-corruption campaign in the short term. "But in the long term, I will not rule out that there is a chance of success, provided Xi perseveres in implementing his graft-busting policies," Lau said.