Authorities must "adapt to new trends and imperatives in economic and social development," Central Political and Legislative Committee leader Zhou Yongkang told a meeting reported by several official newspapers, including the China Police Daily.
"Strive to defuse conflicts and disputes while they are still embryonic," the newspapers quoted him as saying.
His comments were published a day after planned anti-government protests in China inspired by protests in the Middle East and North Africa were quashed by Chinese police.
Police rounded up more than 100 political activists after an online social network called for a Chinese "Jasmine Revolution" with protests in 13 Chinese cities, said Hong Kong's Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a group that provides information on alleged human-rights abuses in mainland China.
Police confined them to their homes or "went missing," the center said.
Authorities also deleted almost all online discussion of the appeal, blocked searches for the word "Jasmine" on Twitter-like microblogging services and other sites, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported.
"Jasmine Revolution" refers to the successful Tunisian revolt that began in December and led to the ouster longtime President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January.
Cellphone users were unable to send out text messages to multiple recipients.
Witnesses reported a heavy police presence in several Chinese cities ahead of the planned Sunday protests.
At one of the designated protest sites -- a McDonald's outlet in Beijing's central Wangfujing shopping district -- several hundred people gathered, along with hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police, shortly before 2 p.m.
U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman was among those in the crowd but quickly left after he was identified by a Chinese crowd member, the Journal said.
At one point, police surrounded a young man who had placed a jasmine flower on a planter outside the McDonald's, but he was let go after the clamor drew journalists and photographers, the Times said.
There were also skirmishes reported in Shanghai and Shenzhen, witnesses said.
It was not immediately clear who organized the campaign, which first appeared Thursday on Boxun.com, a U.S.-based Chinese-language news Web site. The call was then spread through Twitter, which is blocked in China, and other microblogging services.
It came as China prepares for the March 5 start of the annual meeting of its Parliament.