Academics have warned that efforts to root out graft could trigger a backlash from corrupt "tigers" who might be prepared to "fight to the end".
The warning was contained in a series of articles about the anti-graft campaign written by a group of 13 academics, published on Friday in the People's Tribune, a magazine affiliated with People's Daily. The Daily carried the series on its website yesterday.
"Some corrupt officials might strike back or resist the campaign as they might fight till death," said Guo Wenliang, one of the authors and a party historian with the Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University.
"Some might use the excuse the campaign would damage the party's image and affect social stability in their bid to influence public opinion. Some might collude with other vested interest groups to fight against the anti-graft forces," Guo said.
Analysts said the unusual warning might point to strong resistance to the campaign among certain sectors.
"It certainly suggests a concern among some leaders over the possible risks and repercussions from the campaign," said Zhang Lifan, a party historian formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "It might also indicate the strong resistance from some vested interest groups," Zhang added.
Thirty-seven officials at the governor-ministerial level have fallen victim in President Xi Jinping's campaign to crack down on corruption.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party, has vowed to take down both "tigers" - senior corrupt officials - and "flies" - junior-rank corrupt officials.
Last week, the party's decision-making Politburo announced Zhou Yongkang , a former member of its Standing Committee, was being investigated for "serious disciplinary violation" - a term often used for corruption.
Some officials also fear the campaign could damage the party's image, hurt the economy or intensify power struggles among various factions within the leadership.
For many members of the public, it remains to be seen whether the investigation into Zhou is a turning point in government accountability or intended merely as a warning to corrupt cadres.
While most academics have expressed support for the campaign, they also argue that corruption can only be rooted out through rule of law and institutional restructuring that introduces checks and balances over the exercise of official power.
"To cage the power, [we] must strengthen the internal supervision mechanism within the party and public supervision by the masses," said Li Tuo, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance.