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Oct 28, 7:14 AM EDT

Chinese official: anti-graft drive not politically motivated

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BEIJING (AP) -- China's nearly 4-year-old campaign against corruption is not politically biased and only seeks to defend the interests of the country's 1.3 billion people, a leading Communist Party anti-graft official said Friday.

Wu Yuliang told reporters that those speculating that the campaign was being used to target political foes were acting out of ulterior motives.

"In the past some people accused us of inaction in the face of corruption, and now that we have intensified efforts to fight corruption, we have been accused of being selective," Wu said. "I'm afraid those (critics) may have other purposes or motives."

Wu's comments came the day after a major meeting of the ruling Communist Party that renewed President Xi Jinping's drive to end corruption and tighten discipline within the 88 million-member organization that has run China since seizing power in a 1949 revolution.

The party meeting also elevated Xi to the position of "core" leader, underscoring his clout and strengthening his dominance ahead of a reshuffle in the top ranks next year.

More than 1 million party members have been punished in the anti-corruption campaign, which has also brought down two former top generals and a past member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of political power.

"When uprooting rotten trees one has to start with the most rotten ones. If that is called selective I have to say this is just the way we do our work," said Wu, who is vice secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The ruling party "pursues wholeheartedly benefits for the people, and we are making anti-corruption efforts wholly for the purpose of the interests of the people and the country," he said.

While mainly symbolic, the move to bestow Xi with "core" status reflects his rise as the country's most powerful leader in decades, along with his determination to run the ruling party as a clean institution enjoying unfettered authority.

While this week's meeting kicked off the process of selecting new leaders, Wu and other officials at a briefing Friday said they had no information about future appointments.

Five of the current seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee - all but Xi and Premier Li Keqiang - are due to step down next year according to custom.

While Xi has accumulated a growing number of titles and powers, observers say his need to constantly enforce discipline within the party points to a continuing push-back from rivals and disgruntled members of the rank and file.

And while his assertive foreign policy has won plaudits from the public, he faces intense pressure to solve domestic challenges including slowing economic growth and massive layoffs resulting from the closure of steel mills and coal mines.

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