It is easy to be cynical about China's crackdowns on official corruption. The leadership's decision to sack and detain the powerful party boss of Shanghai is no exception. The overseas media have concluded President Hu Jintao deftly manoeuvred the anti-corruption drive to tame his political opponents and cement his authority ahead of an important Communist Party congress where comprehensive leadership reshuffles are discussed and approved. But there are also reasons to believe Mr Hu is not merely using the anti-graft drive as a tool to eliminate opposition. Rather, fighting corruption and promoting social harmony and sustainable economic development are expected to form the core of his policy agenda to lead the country forward. There is no doubt there are heavy political considerations behind Mr Hu's anti-corruption drive. He began the corruption crackdown in summer with the arrests of several senior officials and well-connected businessmen in Beijing, Tianjin, Fujian and Anhui, culminating in the downfall of Chen Liangyu, the Shanghai party chief and a member of the Communist Party's powerful politburo. It is not hard to see that most of the people implicated in the scandals are closely tied to senior state leaders who are viewed as strong supporters of ex-president Jiang Zemin . Liu Zhihua, a Beijing vice-mayor who was arrested in June for corruption, and Zhou Jinhuo, a top Fujian official in charge of commerce who fled the country in June knowing he was a target in an investigation, were widely known to owe their political rise to Jia Qinglin, a member of the more powerful Politburo Standing Committee. A separate probe into the corruption involved Li Baojin, the top prosecuting official in Tianjin, who is generally seen as very close to Tianjin party boss Zhang Lichang , also a politburo member. And the shakedown in Shanghai has dealt a crushing blow to the so-called Shanghai faction led by Mr Jiang and which includes Mr Chen and Huang Ju , another member of the Politburo Standing Committee. This is a classic example of the mainland's time-honoured political manoeuvring, known as 'beating the mountains and shocking the tigers'. The message to the 'tigers' could not be clearer: retreat or face the peril yourselves. More importantly, Mr Hu is trying to use the anti-graft campaign to claim the moral high ground and rally popular support for his agenda to promote social harmony and justify the rule of the Communist Party. For the past 20 years, the mainland's leaders have repeatedly warned the anti-corruption drive is a matter of life or death for the Communist Party. Yet the results of previous campaigns have been discouraging, giving rise to a popular saying that the more anti-corruption campaigns there are, the worse corruption becomes. As official corruption has become the main source of protest and civil unrest, Mr Hu has taken on the anti-graft campaign with a renewed urgency, not least because of the dramatic political developments in Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand. A huge official corruption scandal in Hanoi has led to the toppling of the old guard of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party and an unprecedented direct election among the Communist Party members to bring in a new generation of young and dynamic leadership. This has given hopes to many within the Chinese Communist Party that party leaders should be directly elected among its nearly 70 million party members rather than appointed by a tiny group of people amid intense back-room political haggling. Beijing has also been given two other timely reminders from Thailand's military coup and Taiwan's expanding street protests, both of which started because of corruption allegations against their leaders.