The Chinese government's anti-corruption drive to safeguard the purity of the Party has won plaudits from the public and expectations of cleaner government.
The latest move was the sacking of Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu on Sunday for alleged involvement in a social security fund scandal, becoming the highest-ranking official to fall in the latest anti-corruption campaign.
The scandal involves the alleged illicit investment of at least a third of a 10-billion-yuan (1.2 billion U.S.dollars) city social security fund in potentially risky real estate and road projects. Before Chen, the city's labor and social security department chief, a district governor and several prominent businessmen were detained for questioning over the scandal.
"The investigation into Chen's case shows how seriously China is taking the fight against corruption," says Wang Yukai, a scholar with the National School of Administration which trains mid-level and senior civil servants.
"The most prominent feature of this round of anti-corruption war is that it has led to the downfall of quite a few high ranking officials, not only in Shanghai, but also in Beijing, Tianjin and Anhui," says Wang.
Chen was also in the 24-member Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Party's central executive body.
"No matter who and how high-ranking they are, if they have violated party rules or the law, the investigation will be earnest and the punishment severe," said a statement of the central authorities released on Monday.
Gong Weibin, another scholar with the National School of Administration, observes that the ongoing anti-graft campaign also reveals challenges to the Party in a crucial period of social transaction.
"Corruption is not indigenous to China. It's also afflicting the developed countries, and sometimes leads to the downfall of a government," Gong says. "It's necessary to take an iron fist to crack down on corruption, otherwise the Party might lose support from the general public or even support from ordinary Party members." Falling "tigers"
In China, people are used to calling low-ranking corrupt officials "flies" and the high-ranking officials "tigers."
"Since the beginning of this year, we have seen a lot of tiger-beating in the country, instead of merely fly-swatting," Wang says.
Li Baojin, former procurator-general of Tianjin, one of China's four municipalities along with Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, was dismissed from his post on charges of "severe breaches of discipline" on Aug. 27. In east China's Anhui Province, He Minxu was dismissed from his post as vice provincial governor on Aug. 25.
In Beijing, former deputy mayor Liu Zhihua was removed from office and put under investigation for "corruption and dissoluteness".
Similar probes have been launched against officials in Hunan and Fujian provinces. "Top Chinese leaders are quite clear that it's a make-or-break fight for the government to win public trust by making substantial progress in rooting out corruption," says Wang Yukai.
"Corruption is still rampant in some fields," warned President Hu Jintao before the Party's 85th anniversary which fell on July 1. He called on the 70 million Party members "never to slacken the fight against corruption even for a second".
Premier Wen Jiabao also urged the Party members to build a clean government through fighting corruption at a conference on September 4, stressing "using power for self interest is absolutely prohibited".
Corrupt officials will be left "clean broke both economically and politically" in the high-pressure fight against corruption, Wu Guanzheng, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC, writes in an article on the latest issue of Seeking Truth, the party's ideological journal.
In an obvious bid to tighten discipline over officials, particularly those in leading positions, the central authorities issued a rule in August requiring officials to report personal matters, including all property transactions and developments by them or their immediate families.
The rule bans officials from posts that control or supervise any industry or enterprise in which their family members hold shares.
Earlier this year, the State Council and the Party's discipline watchdog announced that clamping down on commercial bribery would be the focus of anti-corruption efforts for some time to come.
"Many officials have been ferreted out in the fight against commercial bribery," Wang says.
The government has laid equal emphasis on building a more effective system of prevention and supervision.
"The most prominent achievement of the anti-corruption efforts since 2003 was not the downfall of corrupt officials, but the improvement of the system for checking corruption," Wang says.
The CPC promulgated three regulations to beef up internal discipline in 2004 alone, marking a new stage of Party building, Wang says.
Meanwhile, disciplinary heads in various departments are no longer selected from inside the departments, but dispatched by the Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Wang says. "As a result, they would be more independent and effective."
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has also been sending task forces, openly or secretly, to various localities to solicit grassroots comments on local high-ranking officials.
"Such comments are generally more substantial and trustworthy than the traditional practice of anonymous letters reporting on official misbehavior," says Wang.
"The government is also active in international cooperation to fight corruption," Wang says.
The country was among the first to ratify the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention, which went into effect on December 13 last year.
China ratified an extradition treaty with Spain on April 29, the first with a developed country. Before this, China had signed extradition treaties with more than 20 mostly developing countries since 1993.
"The cooperation could reduce the range of corrupt officials' activities," Wang says.
The scholar believes only through system building can the country win a final victory in its prolonged battle against corruption. Public feedback
The new corruption fight has won the support of the Chinese public, who have been avidly discussing the dismissal of Chen.
About 800,000 visitors had read the news about Chen between noon Monday and noon Wednesday on Xinhuanet, operated by Xinhua News Agency.
Thousands left comments along the lines of "heartening", "surprising", "great", "support" or even "This is what the CPC should be doing."
Most people interviewed say the move has satisfied the public.
"It's big news," says a 72-year-old retired worker Zhou Junying in Beijing. "We just hate the corrupt officials. Many people I know are living on a minimum pension of a few hundred yuan."
"The Party's tenet is to serve for the people, but some have degenerated to serve their own interests. They might jeopardize the Party or even the country. The move is timely. We expect and welcome more," says 70-year-old Gao Guishan, a retiree and also a Party member.
"My instant reaction at the news was whether housing prices would slow down," says 28-year-old Yao Lan, an employee in a joint venture in Shanghai. "Just look at the unreasonable housing prices of Shanghai. The officials including Chen should be held accountable for this."
At a press conference on Tuesday, Gan Yisheng, secretary-general of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said the dismissal of Chen had received public support.
"We should learn from the lesson and promote further measures such as transparency in government to check corruption at its source," Gan said.