Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the Communist Party's propaganda department to launch a battle to impose its positions on the Web and "seize the ground of new media," the South China Morning Post said Wednesday.

Xi gave a speech last month to the party's propaganda chiefs, although only in recent days have some of the more contentious remarks contained in that address come to light, the Hong Kong daily said.

"The most impressive (point) is that Xi said the Communist Party should be combative, instead of being passive, and it should wage a war to win over public opinion," a source who participated in internal briefings on the speech told the daily.

"Xi also ordered the propaganda apparatus to form a strong Internet army to seize the ground of new media," that source said.

A media source, meanwhile, told the newspaper that Xi instructed the officials to "unite all intellectuals," a remark interpreted as an order to round up as much support as possible among that sector for the party's agenda.

Xi's speech coincided with a stepped-up campaign by the central government against Web "rumor-mongering," a crackdown that has included numerous arrests.

As part of that effort, the government has exerted greater pressure on celebrities inclined to share their opinions on social-networking sites.

On Aug. 23, Chinese-American businessman Charles Xue, known to his 12 million followers on Chinese micro-blogging Web site Sina Weibo as Xue Manzi, was arrested on suspicion of soliciting the services of a prostitute.

Chinese human rights activist Guo Feixiong, known for organizing a signature campaign calling for disclosure of top government officials' assets, was arrested on Aug. 8. EFE