It is widely believed that inequality is one of main reasons behind many violent revolutions in history. And several Chinese leaders have recently warned that the nation now closely resembles France on the eve the French Revolution in 1789, when society was divided between the privileged and unprivileged. That is why President Xi Jinping, since he came to office in late 2012, has focused on wars against the privileged, in an effort to reduce social inequality and disparity that threaten communist rule. His latest move was to cut the hefty salaries of executives at state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as a way to regulate the income-distribution system. At a high-level meeting last week, Xi said the "unreasonably high and excessive incomes" of officials-turned-executives must be regulated. For a long time, the SOEs have been a source of public discontent because of their monopoly status. Consumers have long complained of substandard products and excessive prices from SOEs. They are hated just as much for giving hefty salaries and spending on lavish entertainment and generous perks for their executives. Their huge profits and alleged corruption have also earned them scorn. Xi's initiative has been well received. State media reacted with commentaries and editorials supporting reform and lambasting the luxurious lives of senior executives. In an article, Xinhua gave a list of SOE executives and their perks, including expensive meals, fancy cars and golf games. "Any delays in adjusting the salaries for those in charge of SOEs will give the impression that our system is designed to facilitate the channelling of interests to particular groups," said the Global Times . "The SOEs are not places for individuals or a small minority to gather wealth," said a Beijing Times editorial. "Yet reform is not easy. And it is even harder for reform to overcome the vested interests involved," said China Daily . Senior executives at SOEs are known to have earned millions of yuan annually while ordinary workers make just few thousand yuan a month. Ma Mingzhe , chairman of China's top insurer Ping An, topped a list of executives' pay in 2007, with 66.16 million yuan in pre-tax earnings. The list was released by China's Listing Corporation. The People's Daily questioned the rationale for giving executives such a salary while they were still government officials. "Their current pay is not proportional to their skills and is completely disjointed from ordinary workers," the party newspaper said. It has long been controversial for the top executives of state-owned enterprises to earn as much as their Western counterparts, much more than their peers in government, despite having similar skills and status. Senior executives also use public funds for their own entertainment under the guise of "business expenditure". Reports show that 252 state-owned listed companies had spent 6.5 billion yuan (about HK$8 billion) on entertainment costs in 2012. The income-distribution reform came amid Xi's anti-graft campaign in the state sector, which has netted several dozen senior executives and managers, including former China Resources head Song Lin and former PetroChina chief Jiang Jiemin. Some Chinese analysts said the crackdown and the austerity programme were part of Xi's bolder vision to restructure the state-dominated economy. By cracking down on corrupt officials and business executives, Xi is trying to tame powerful vested-interest groups who will likely resist his reforms. Perhaps Xi has taken note from British philosopher John Stuart Mill, who once advised: "The concessions of the privileged to the unprivileged are seldom brought about by any better motive than the power of the unprivileged to extort them."