China plans to step up fight against corruption

China's ruling Communist Party said Wednesday that it plans more inspections and supervision of officials as it battles corruption, a deep-rooted problem that has gotten worse and could threaten political stability.

The party will monitor the use of public vehicles and supervise officials' financial assets to curb and combat illegal financial activities, its vice chairman for discipline, Wu Yuliang, said at a news conference. Wu said widespread corruption was standing in the way of economic development.

China has launched numerous efforts to curb graft in recent years, but it remains common among Communist Party officials. Corruption is often a focus of protests by ordinary Chinese.

A central bank report released last week said thousands of corrupt officials have stolen more than $120 billion and fled overseas since the mid-1990s — with the U.S. a top destination.

But Chinese officials have since backed away from the report. Wu said the numbers in it were incorrect, though he added that China was "strengthening international cooperation in law enforcement to catch and prevent corrupt officials from fleeing abroad."

Wu said China is monitoring the overseas assets of officials and their movements to prevent corruption, but he did not give details on how much money has been stolen.

"The Chinese government attaches great importance to the issue of corrupt officials fleeing overseas," Wu said. "We have conducted many campaigns to catch those officials and return their money."

He said nearly 140,000 graft cases were filed in China in 2010 and that more than 146,000 people were punished in corruption cases.