Beijing's latest anti-corruption drive was launched earlier this month with a greater sense of urgency and determination. During a keynote speech at a national anti-corruption conference, President Hu Jintao called for new safeguards against graft and for permanent solutions to root out the problem. Mainland leaders also released an 11,000-word document outlining their thoughts and ideas on how to fight and contain widespread corruption. In what the official media claimed as a breakthrough, the document for the first time acknowledged the need to use 'reform and development' to fight systemic graft. This signals a greater willingness to deepen structural reforms and increase the transparency of the Communist Party, the government and judiciary which have proved to be fertile grounds for corruption. Wang Zhenchuan, deputy president of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said last week that strengthening safeguards against graft was more effective than simply stressing punishments, citing the role of Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption. But as usual, the document and officials' remarks are long on rhetoric and short on details. While few doubt Mr Hu's determination to curb corruption, many have misgivings about whether the latest campaign will fizzle out again after a series of high-profile arrests and punishments of several corrupt officials. Mainland analysts say one of the most important challenges facing Mr Hu's leadership is preventing rampant social unrest and corruption. The best safeguards against corruption include strict adherence to the rule of law, an independent judiciary and a free media functioning as a watchdog. However, there are no indications that the mainland leadership will allow greater freedom of speech and make its judiciary system independent from party control. The opposite is true. The party is cracking down harder on dissent through tighter controls of the internet and the traditional media, and stepping up arrests or harassment of outspoken writers and academics. As Mr Hu pointed out, the fight against corruption is aimed at strengthening the rule and legitimacy of the party. There is limited scope for effective safeguards against corruption and abuse of power, but the mainland leadership still has a number of useful weapons it could use. First, drastic measures are needed to streamline the bureaucracy and curtail or reduce administrative and regulatory powers. Rent-seeking by officials is the key reason behind rampant corruption, as the need for government approval still permeates almost every aspect of people's lives and businesses despite economic reforms. The government must withdraw as much and as soon as possible, and leave market forces to play a bigger role. After cutting back on bureaucracy, authorities should consider promoting an incentive scheme to reward officials who promise to stay on the straight and narrow. While it may sound ridiculous to reward officials for simply doing their jobs, the mainland's civil servants are poorly paid and their morale is low. A dozen small cities in wealthy provinces such as Zhejiang have been allowed to experiment with so-called anti-corruption pension funds. Government officials whose careers are not tainted by graft are eligible for a one-off payment on retirement. Officials are required to contribute to the fund, which will be topped up with government subsidies. The scheme has remained controversial, partly because poorer provinces cannot afford it. But as the central government's coffers are growing fatter, the scheme should be gradually introduced nationwide, starting in richer provinces such as Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu . That is a price worth paying.