A former editor of the Communist Party's mouthpiece newspaper has urged the central government to push forward with reform of the political system to sustain the country's economic growth and social stability. In a rare display of media boldness following Beijing's recent clampdown on the press and the banning of eight books, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily published an interview on Monday with Zhou Ruijin , a reformist journalist who was once deputy editor of the People's Daily. Mr Zhou made his name with a series of articles in the early 1990s supporting Deng Xiaoping's market reforms. Written under the pen name of Huang Puping, his articles helped fire the first salvos for radical economic reform. But despite stellar economic growth, the country has been plagued by all sorts of problems ranging from a yawning income gap and rising social discontent to rampant corruption and environmental deterioration. 'China has been bogged down in a mess of contradictions and disputes,' he said. This showed that economic reform without political transition was not sustainable and the panacea to all social ills was furthering democratic reform, he said. 'What I've proposed is that political reform should precede all other reforms of the government administration,' he was quoted as saying. Mr Zhou also called for expanded direct elections, currently only allowed at the village level, as well as allowing 'civil society' to grow while the party retreated. His comments follow moves by Beijing to strengthen surveillance over domestic media in preparation for the Communist Party's five-yearly national congress later this year and are a sign of a growing discontent among reformers who have become disenchanted with Beijing's lack of progress in pushing political reforms.