China's ruling Communist Party has fired its top leader in Shanghai for alleged corruption. The move is a bold measure by President Hu Jintao, who analysts say is consolidating his power ahead of expected major changes in the party leadership next year.

China's communist leadership on Monday announced Chen Liangyu had been dismissed from his post as Shanghai Communist Party secretary.

Chen is now under investigation for allegedly mishandling hundreds of millions of dollars in city pension funds, and other charges including nepotism.

Chen's dismissal is part of a probe, going on since July, of corruption in Shanghai.

Monday's announcement, carried by the Xinhua state news agency, said Chen's firing demonstrates the leadership's resolve to "build a clean party" and fight corruption.

President Hu Jintao has made fighting graft a top priority, and political analysts say his administration has much to gain from publicizing the removal of corrupt officials.

Joseph Cheng is professor of politics at the City University of Hong Kong. He says news that a corrupt top party cadre has been fired is just what a population angry over social inequities wants to hear.

"The party leadership is now aware that because of the widening gap between rich and poor, there is a lot of anger and resentment against corruption, against privileges, and this is going to be a serious challenge to political and social stability in China," he said.

Cheng and other analysts say that by removing a party boss in Shanghai, a stronghold of former President Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao is advertising that after three years in office, he is in full control.

Observers say it is important for Hu to demonstrate this ahead of the 17th party congress next year, when Hu is expected to install several of his protégés in key party leadership posts.