Beijing - China could face a threat to its power structure unless it stamps out rampant corruption among officials, Premier Wen Jiabao was quoted as saying on Monday.
The latest statement from Wen, who has long pushed to eradicate corruption, underscores broader worry that left unchecked, the problem could hurt the legitimacy of one-party rule.
“Wen Jiabao stressed that the greatest danger facing the ruling party is corruption,” Wen was quoted as telling the state council, or cabinet, in comments reported on the government website.
“If this issue is not resolved, the nature of political power could change.”
Anger over corruption has prompted a raft of “mass incidents”, an official euphemism for protests, worrying officials defending one-party rule and overseeing a smooth transition of power to a younger generation of leaders.
Wen called on senior officials to disclose their personal details, including information on spouses and children.
He said “the use of public funds to buy cigarettes, fine wines and gifts” should be prohibited and pledged to “strictly control the number of celebrations, seminars and forums”.
Wen has stood out among China’s leaders as the most vocal advocate of measured relaxation under party control. As he prepares to leave power, he has called more forcefully - though vaguely - for political reform.
He retires next year, along with President Hu Jintao, after a decade in power. During that time, China has grown to become the world’s second-biggest economy, but one plagued by corruption and a growing income gap.
Critics say Hu and Wen have failed to pursue reform vigorously enough to underpin long-term growth and wealth creation.
Addressing reporters at this month’s annual meeting of parliament, the National People’s Congress, Wen warned that failure to act against graft and income disparity could rekindle the chaos of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.