China has received poor marks in an annual corruption index, underscoring a worsening problem that Communist Party leaders have acknowledged could threaten their grip on power.
Transparency International's index on state corruption again placed China well down in the rankings at number 80 out of the 176 countries where perceptions of official graft were measured. It ranked 75th in last year's index.
The report released Wednesday said China was perceived to be more corrupt than Saudi Arabia, but less than other Communist-ruled countries such as Vietnam and North Korea. Beijing scored just 39 out of a possible 100 points in the study.
China's Communist Party has vowed to crack down on official corruption, which has been highlighted by several high-profile scandals involving senior leaders.
New Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping waves in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Nov. 15, 2012.
Last month, state media quoted incoming President Xi Jinping as saying that if corruption were allowed to run rampant, the party risked major unrest or the end of the party and the state.
Xi was named Communist Party chief last month at the 18th National Congress, which unveiled China's next generation of new leaders.
The once-a-decade power transfer has been complicated by a scandal involving senior politician Bo Xilai, who was once considered a favorite for a top leadership spot.
Bo Xilai (March 11, 2012 file photo)
Bo is under investigation for corruption and abuse of power, while his wife has been convicted of murdering a British businessman over a financial dispute.
Meanwhile, state media said Wednesday another high-ranking official has been placed under investigation for graft. The official Xinhua news agency said Sichuan deputy party boss Li Chuncheng was being investigated by the party's discipline watchdog. It did not mention any suspected wrongdoings.
Beijing says an astonishing 600,000 party officials have been exposed for corruption-related activities since 2007. Of those, only 200,000 were referred to Chinese courts for prosecution.
But many observers say progress will be difficult in curbing corruption, partly because of the lack of independence in China's courts, which are heavily influenced by the Communist Party.