THE tug-of-war between central Government and regional authorities has surfaced again, with Beijing issuing another warning to local officials not to ignore its edicts. The latest salvo was fired by Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji when he inspected the grain-producing province of Henan in central China. According to official news agency reports yesterday, Mr Zhu made it clear to local cadres he would not tolerate dissent over the use of state funds earmarked for the purchase of farmers' harvests. Mr Zhu, not known for friendliness with regional authorities, again accused local officials of stealing money from state funds earmarked for buying grain and oil to finance other development projects. He chastised officials for issuing so-called 'white slips' or IOUs to farmers for their harvests. He told the cadres that the Government's success in controlling the IOUs held the key to China's fight against inflation this year. A report released by the State Statistical Bureau yesterday showed the retail price index in major cities dropped only slightly last month - indicating that the Government might not be able to meet its target of reducing inflation to 15 per cent this year. While Mr Zhu praised Henan cadres for making progress in farming, despite adverse weather conditions this year, he was angered over a lack of control over the use of grain purchasing funds. 'Zhu pointed out that while no more IOUs had been issued recently, the misappropriation of farm purchasing funds was 'still a serious problem', which has had harmful effects on the attempt to check inflation,' Xinhua (the New China News Agency) reported. 'He stressed that local governments must not divert fund for other uses, and must recoup misappropriated capital as soon as possible,' the news agency said. Mr Zhu warned regions to drop protectionist attitudes and consider national interests.