China graft-buster says must learn from ancients to tackle corruption

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's ruling Communist Party must learn from the traditional virtues which have defined Chinese culture since ancient time as it tackles corruption, a problem that still hangs "acutely" in front of them, the top graft-buster wrote on Friday.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping campaign against graft since assuming the party leadership in 2012 and presidency in 2013, warning, like others before him, that the issue is so severe it could affect the party's grip on power.

Writing in the party's official People's Daily, Wang Qishan, who is in charge of battling corruption, said that the source of the party's rules on tackling this problem were the morals and virtues passed down through history.

"In a series of important speeches General Secretary Xi Jinping has cited a great number of ancient texts and words from the classics, stressing and lauding the fine traditional culture of the Chinese people which has meaning in the new era," Wang wrote.

In traditional Chinese culture, morality and law are joined at the hip, rules are observed like rituals and everyone follows them, he said.

The party's rules on fighting corruption and ancient morality can be "traced to the same origin", he added, in comments written to explain why the party this week tightened its clean-living rules for party members.

"In setting and adjusting rules, we must learn from the essence of traditional Chinese culture and move with the times in managing the party in accordance with new situations and new missions," Wang said.

The party listed golf and gluttony as violations for the first time in its newly tightened rules to stop officials from engaging in corrupt practices, while also turning an even sterner eye on sexual impropriety.

Wang said the party was determined to enforce these rules to ensure they don't just end up as "something that hangs off the walls or it merely chatter about", repeating a vow that the party's graft fight would never end.

The party must be under no illusions about how serious the problem is, he said.

"The trials the party faces in being in power, reforming and opening up, the market economy and foreign environment are long term, complex and serious," Wang wrote.

"Dangers of laziness, inability to properly act, remoteness from the people and passive corruption hang even more acutely in front of the party," he said.

"If allowed to continue then it will weaken the party's ability to govern and shake the party's basis for governing."

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)