The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) membership drive registered a sharp drop in 2022. According to recently released data for 2022, the Party witnessed a notable decline in its membership drive. The growth rate of the party stood at a meagre 1.4 per cent, a sharp drop compared to the figures for 2021. In contrast, the party experienced a surge in membership by an additional 3.4 million cadres in 2021, resulting in a growth rate of 3.7 per cent. However, in 2022, the party only managed to attract 1.3 million new members. This unexpected drop coincided with a decrease in the number of youths under the age of 30 joining the party, exhibiting a significant decline of 1.5 per cent compared to 2021. The decline in membership can be attributed to the stringent screening process implemented for new applicants. This process was introduced as part of the party’s organisational restructuring aimed at promoting ideological progress. Anti-corruption watchdogs play a crucial role in this process by purging youths who appreciate Western values, engage in extravagance, or deviate from the party’s directives.
One notable reason behind this sharp decline can be traced back to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, China’s top anti-corruption agency. The commission has conducted a series of high-profile crackdowns on young cadres, accusing them of involvement in corrupt activities. This decline and the targeting of young members is not a recent phenomenon but can be traced back to 2012 when Xi Jinping assumed power. Xi prioritised political appointments based on governance experience and loyalty, subjecting the party’s youth members to constant surveillance and scrutiny under anti-corruption initiatives. The turning point came around 2014 when a major corruption scandal unfolded involving the former presidential chief of staff. This individual was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment in 2016 for accepting bribes, abusing power, and unlawfully acquiring state secrets.
Since then, Xi has favoured promoting officials from his network and emphasised the importance of grassroots work experience, which is typically required by youth members. He has often criticised the leadership of the Youth League as “aristocratic,” while the party’s top discipline watchdog has accused them of being excessively bureaucratic and self-serving. Despite a record-breaking 21 million applications submitted, 300,000 more than the previous year, the disdain of anti-corruption watchdogs towards young cadres has contributed to a decline in recruitment numbers. Consequently, the total number of members below the age of 30 has experienced a steady decline over the past few years, with a significant drop of 1.5 per cent since 2021. Xi’s attitude towards youth cadres plays a role in this trend.
In an effort to further consolidate control over young cadres, Xi has called upon his anti-corruption watchdogs to enhance education, management, and supervision of youth members, guiding them towards a politically correct path.
These measures reflect Xi’s influential presence and centralised vision for the party. He maintains complete authority, is surrounded by trusted officials, and leaves no room for internal challenges or factionalism.