BEIJING -- At a Chinese Communist Party oath-taking ceremony in the capital held just before the party's centennial, a group of proud young men and women in crisp white shirts swore to uphold the party's principles.
Many of the recruits were science majors at top colleges, such as President Xi Jinping's alma mater Tsinghua University. The CCP is going after those with technology backgrounds as the country remains embroiled in a high-tech rivalry with Washington.
The Communist Party is on a major drive to bolster its numbers in the country's most exclusive club and is on pace to more than double its annual new members this year.
The party has welcomed 2.31 million new members between the beginning of the year and June 5. In all of last year, 2.43 million members were recruited.
Its membership as of June 5 stood at 95.15 million people, or roughly 7% of China's 1.4 billion people, suggesting a highly competitive selection process.
With the party leading every aspect of life in China from politics to the economy, party members are considered part of the elite class. Membership also grants an advantage in landing government jobs or with state-owned enterprises, as well as in being promoted.
Soon after Xi was inaugurated as the general secretary of the Communist Party, he complained in a Politburo meeting in January 2013 that the standards for party membership were not strict enough, and that the party must elevate the quality of new members.
Between that year and 2020, the party accepted between 1.9 million to 2.4 million members a year. The count is much lower than the 3.23 million members who joined in 2012, the last year of former President Hu Jintao's tenure.
Communist Party applicants numbered 20.06 million, up 1 million people from the end of 2019. The TV dramas and films released to coincide with this month's centennial of the party's founding appear to have sparked interest among the youth.
The advanced age of party members also seems to be a factor in the increased recruiting drive. There are 12.55 million members who are 30 years or younger as of June 5, which has grown from the end of 2019.
Previously, the numbers in that contingent had been declining since comparable data was recorded in 2015. Now most of the new party members are young, which has halted the graying of the party to a certain extent.
Those wishing to join the Communist Party must submit a written application with the endorsement of two party members. Approval is contingent on one's understanding of the party's precepts, as well as grades and the reputation within a school or workplace. A portion of applicants chosen as reserve members must go through a yearlong probation period before becoming full-fledged members.