STRENGTHENING fiscal discipline and fighting regionalism have dominated the first phase of the marathon meeting of the Chinese leadership at Beidaihe, which opened yesterday. Speaking at the North China seaside resort yesterday, Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji called for tighter central control and the propagation of the spirit of 'localities heeding the overall national interest'. Apart from seeking a consensus on the final draft of the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000), leaders including President Jiang Zemin and Mr Zhu are anxious to re-assert central authority, particularly over taxation and investment. With a renewed mandate from the Politburo, Mr Zhu is expected to cross swords with regional 'warlords' in the conferences until about the end of the month. Sources in Beijing said that, in spite of the introduction of a 'dual-tax system' in early 1994, Beijing's share of national revenue had only improved marginally. Moreover, the central Government had been unable to redress the worsening income gap between the coast and the hinterland regions. Apart from the higher-level meetings involving Politburo members and party elders, there were several fringe meetings, including one on taxation in which the spirit of austerity was reflected. Deputy taxation chief Xiang Huaicheng said tax officials must ''boost ideological and political work' to ensure that the new tax systems was working efficiently. 'The phenomena of the remission of tax without central authorisation and the postponement of tax contributions have again become serious,' the semi-official China News Service quoted Mr Xiang as saying. 'A group of people have failed to keep the national situation in mind. Their legal concept is not strong.' He added that tax and other economic officials had succumbed to 'sugar-coated bullets' and had taken bribes or engaged in other economic crimes. The Beidaihe meetings will also touch on issues including corruption, the cadre system, and policies towards Taiwan and the US.