BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Chinese corruption fighter on Friday blasted those who think the battle against graft is aimed at the ruling Communist Party's political foes, saying the entire Chinese nation would be offended if corruption was not confronted.
There has been repeated speculation at home and abroad - and sources with ties to the leadership have told Reuters - that President Xi Jinping's graft crackdown is as much about Xi taking down his enemies as it is about cleaning up the party.
Xi himself addressed this on a visit to the United States last year, saying China's fight against entrenched corruption was not a "House of Cards"-style power struggle.
Speaking at a rare press conference, Wu Yuliang, a deputy party boss of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, likened the fight to uprooting rotten trees when asked if the campaign was selective and aimed a political enemies.
"When uprooting rotten trees, of course you must start with the most rotten. If you say this is selective, then I think this is a kind of way of working," Wu said, speaking after a four-day party meeting that further bolstered Xi's power.
"But I think perhaps there is another meaning to this question you have raised," he added.
"In the past some people have attacked us for not opposing corruption, and now we have increased the ante in the corruption fight, they say it's selective. In reality, this is a case of 'though drunken, one's real interest is not in wine'", Wu said, using an expression meaning somebody has ulterior motives.
The party was devoted to the people and fighting graft was completely in the public interest, he added.
"If you don't give offense to corrupt elements, then you will give offense to China's 1.3 billion people."
Xi has warned that corruption threatens the Communist Party's survival and his almost four-year anti-graft campaign has brought down scores of senior officials in the party, the government, the military and state-owned enterprises.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)