BEIJING (AP) — China's ruling Communist Party recruited almost 15 percent fewer new members last year amid hopes that better-qualified candidates will expand its guiding role in Chinese society.
Accounting for deaths and other losses, membership expanded by 1.1 million members, or 1.3 percent, in 2014 to a total of 87.79 million, the party's Organization Department said.
At the same time, an additional 56,000 party units were added in offices, companies and other organizations for a total of 4.36 million nationwide.
However, recruitment of new members fell by 14.6 percent to just over 2 million, or 351,000 fewer than in 2013, the party said. Of those new recruits, 82 percent were below age 35 and 38 percent had at least a college degree, 2.6 percent more than in 2013.
"The Communist Party of China is further refining the development of its structural ranks. The quality of its members never ceases to improve," the Organization Department said in a statement posted on its website late Monday.
The recruitment strategy reflects Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping's determination to strengthen party control over the military, the bureaucracy, economic life and non-governmental organizations.
He has also launched a massive anti-corruption campaign in which thousands of cadres have been investigated for abuses. Xi hopes that will strengthen his control over the party apparatus while reviving its tarnished reputation, although critics say the drive is also being used to settle political scores.
The party's renewed push for influence has also come at the expense of China's nascent civil society.
Independent groups working in areas including the environment, worker protection and women's rights have come under growing pressure from the enormous internal security complex, while the entirely state-controlled media and cultural groups have been clamped down on relentlessly and academia warned against the infiltration of Western-style values such as free speech and other civil rights.