A slew of high-profile scandals involving senior Communist Party officials in recent months prompted President Xi Jinping to call for a fundamental overhaul of the appointment and promotion regime for cadres during a recent national conference on the promotion of meritocracy. Xi, who took over as the Communist Party's general secretary seven months ago, criticised an obsession with economic growth as being a major factor in the performance appraisal of party cadres and government officials. He proposed that officials' performance be assessed in accordance with how much they contribute to the improvement of people's livelihoods and the ecosystem, and overall social development. As well as the need to cultivate a strong sense of morality and party allegiance among cadres, Xi stressed that it was necessary to tighten oversight of the party's 85 million members via a scientific selection process. However, he dismissed using a ballot system for such a process, favouring transparency via "democratic recommendation and appraisals". Hu Wei, dean of Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of International and Public Affairs, said Xi's calls for an overhaul of the personnel-selection regime underscored a concern within the central leadership over official corruption, which undermines the Communist Party's legitimacy as the ruling party. "The core task is about how the top leaders are going to hold the party together in order to maintain its rule," Hu said. Citing statistics from the State Administration of Civil Service, 21st Century Business Herald reported that there were nearly 7.1 million civil servants by the end of last year. Competition for senior posts is so intense that a democratic, scientific and fair regime for the selection of party cadres and government officials has become of greater significance to give everyone certain expectations in their careers, according to Zhu Lijia , a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance. Hu Xingdou, a Beijing Institute of Technology professor specialising in political economics, said it was not fair to say that there is no oversight of party cadres and senior officials, as they are often shuffled around among different posts to cut nepotism under highly sophisticated arrangements. "But such a mechanism has been limited in tackling official corruption because the public hasn't got involved in a democratic way," Hu said. "Even worse, some local officials have built their credentials out of the suffering of the less privileged in things like forced demolitions, because they are not held to account in accordance with the well-being of the masses." Li Chuncheng, the disgraced former Sichuan party secretary, gained notoriety for pushing through some of the most controversial demolition projects during his tenure. Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said he was surprised by Xi's frankness in dismissing a ballot system for cadres' selection and promotion. He said Xi contradicted himself by highlighting the importance of "democratic recommendation and democratic assessment". Chen said Xi's comments on promoting meritocracy were nothing new, but an addition to the current clean-up campaign to consolidate his power.