A Xinhua commentary has warned officials that high-level connections will not protect them from being "spat out" by the Communist Party.
The commentary came after the announcement of a graft investigation into Ling Zhengce, brother of Ling Jihua, who was a long-time aide of former president Hu Jintao.
Not even "having an ally high up in Beijing will help", Xinhua said, in a jab at Ling Zhengce.
A Shanxi native, Ling Jihua was said to be a founder of the so-called "Shanxi gang".
The euphemism-laden commentary chose Ling Zhengce's case as a starting point, then named other cadres with good family connections and links to other officials in their hometowns.
The sharp words were published on one of Xinhua's verified Weibo accounts yesterday and reposted by state media. By 11am, the piece had been deleted.
Of corrupt officials like former railway minister Liu Zhijun, 61, and his younger brother, former Wuhan railways deputy chief Liu Zhixiang, Xinhua said: "The old saying that 'great trees are good for shade' won't work any more."
The elder Liu stood trial last year for "very serious" graft, including pocketing bribes and trying to buy his way to promotion. The younger Liu was given a suspended death sentence in 2006 for graft and hiring a hitman to kill a person who accused him of corruption.
"If anyone acquired money they shouldn't have, the party and the people will ensure they will be spat out," Xinhua said.
Ling Jihua was widely tipped for a promising career in the inner circle of the Politburo. But his path was blocked when his son was killed in a Ferrari crash in 2012.
The accident, which left two woman passengers seriously injured, caused a scandal, with the public seeing it as indicative of officials' decadent lifestyle - one of luxury cars and partying.
"In the Chinese political scenario, when a close relative of a senior leader is arrested, speculation is made about the leader. But there is no absolute rule," City University political scientist Joseph Cheng Yu-shek said.
"Other variables include if the more senior official is accepted by the leadership, whether he is willing to make a self-criticism, the severity of the corruption and so on."
Ling Jihua was seen on CCTV's prime-time news last night at a United Front Work Department meeting hosted by Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng.
Apart from Ling, Beijing said this week that Shanxi vice-governor Du Shanxue was facing a probe due to serious violations of party discipline - a euphemism for corruption charges. Du's last public appearance was on June 18, in a meeting with State Grid Corporation president Liu Zhenya, whose company is being audited.Topics: Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign More on this: