BEIJING Chinese president-in-waiting Xi Jinping on Tuesday took his campaign against corruption to the petty bureaucracy and minor infractions of lowly officials who are the bane of many Chinese people and businessmen's everyday lives.
Xi, in comments carried by the official Xinhua news agency, said it was just as important to go after the "flies", or lowly people, as it was to tackle the "tigers", or top officials, in the battle against graft.
"We must uphold the fighting of tigers and flies at the same time, resolutely investigating law-breaking cases of leading officials and also earnestly resolving the unhealthy tendencies and corruption problems which happen all around people," he said.
Bureaucrats must not be allowed to get away with skirting rules and orders from above or choosing selectively which policies to follow, added Xi.
"The style in which you work is no small matter, and if we don't redress unhealthy tendencies and allow them to develop, it will be like putting up a wall between our party and the people, and we will lose our roots, our lifeblood and our strength," Xi told a meeting of the party's top anti-graft body.
Xi called for "a disciplinary, prevention and guarantee mechanism" to be set up to prevent corruption, Xinhua said, though Xi did not provide any details.
Chinese bureaucrats have long had a poor reputation for laziness, a love of excessive paperwork and minor acts of corruption which infuriate the man on the street and add to growing mistrust of the party.
Since taking over as Communist Party head in November from Hu Jintao, Xi has vowed to root out corruption no matter how high it is, warning the party's survival is at risk if it does not take the problem seriously.
But he has also made more populist moves, banning officials from making long, boring speeches or being given red carpet welcomes, and ordering the military to stop holding alcohol- fuelled banquets and staying in luxury hotels.
However, without an independent judiciary, efforts to fight graft will almost certainly falter, and the control-obsessed party has shown no sign of embarking on this reform.
Some Chinese Internet users were skeptical of Xi's latest call to weed out corruption.
"Give us a ballot and let the people supervise all of you," one microblogger wrote.
Xi takes over from Hu as president at the annual meeting of parliament in March.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)