China’s Communist Party Reports First New Member Drop in Decade

The number of people joining China’s ruling Communist Party last year dropped for the first time in a decade as leaders focus on raising the caliber of cadres and combating a culture of corruption.

New members of the world’s largest political party fell 25.5 percent to a total of 2.4 million in 2013, according to the party’s Organization Department. The total number of party members was 86.7 million, it said.

President Xi Jinping is seeking stronger, more principled party members as he carries out a wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign that has brought down high-level cadres across the country. Xi has identified graft as the biggest threat to the party’s 65-year hold on power.

“Xi’s philosophy is to manage the party with strict discipline so that corruption, the big threat to the party’s ruling position, can be lessened or even eradicated,” Liu Xutao, professor of public affairs at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Governance, said. “That requires raising the standards for the incoming members and slowing down the expansion of the party,”

The past decade has seen the party become bigger and more bloated, with many members being under qualified and prone to corruption, Liu said.

New recruitment guidelines released June 10 require efforts to limit the size of the party and to improve its structure and quality, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Localities and organizations are required to enlist party members in a “prudent” and “balanced” manner, Xinhua said.

The party has tried to reach out to young people, yet the number of new members under the age of 35 remained the same last year at 81.7 percent, according to the Organization Department’s data. The proportion of new women members fell 0.4 percentage points to 39.3 percent, the data show.

Wan Qingliang

Without an independent judiciary, Xi is tasking the party to clean up its own members. The party’s disciplinary body has started investigations against provincial leaders, state-owned enterprise bosses, as well armed forces personnel.

Wan Qingliang, Communist Party chief of the southern city of Guangzhou, is being probed for “serious violations of discipline and laws,” the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection said on its website June 27.

Wan is an alternate member of the party’s central committee that elects China’s elite Politburo and a member of Guangdong’s provincial party committee. The commission also this month announced a probe into Su Rong, a vice chairman of the nation’s top political advisory body and a former party chief of Jiangxi province.

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson, and Ting Shi

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.