BEIJING, June 30 (Reuters) - Lectrice, 28, grew up eating
KFC, has watched American teen TV drama Gossip Girl since high
school, loves wearing Nike Air Jordans and supports the #MeToo
She is also a staunch Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member.
"People assume party slogans ring hollow because they sound
too 'glorious'. But if you put aside the rebellious spirit youth
usually have, these slogans are actually a good guide for
self-cultivation," Lectrice told Reuters by phone from Shanghai.
China's Communist Party, which celebrates its 100th
anniversary on Thursday, is at the peak of its power under
President Xi Jinping, analysts say, as China's post-COVID
economy surges and its international stature grows.
Some Chinese privately say they find the party's earnest
slogans and focus on collectivism anachronistic in an
increasingly individualistic society.
But a growing cohort of young members reconcile those
contradictions with an increasingly nationalistic pride in
China's success, and in the opportunities that membership
affords, several members and political analysts say.
"I joined the party because I want to have a platform to
push for social causes with my peers," said Lectrice, a doctoral
student in philosophy, who said she volunteered a few years ago
to counsel women suffering from domestic abuse and wrote
articles in support of China's nascent #MeToo movement.
Authorities in China have in recent years censored or
detained women advocating for feminist causes, reflecting
Beijing's general intolerance for social activism. But Lectrice
says those activists were "too extreme" and had anti-Party
agendas that went beyond women's rights.
Reuters spoke with 10 young party members for this story,
most of whom did not want to be quoted. Those who agreed to
quoted declined to use their full names because they had not
been authorised by the party to speak with foreign media.
Xi has made consolidation of the party's role in society
central to his vision for a strong China, defying Western
expectations in the early 2000s that a rising middle class would
ease the party's grip.
Party membership grew by a record 2.43 million in 2020, and
as is typical, about 80% of new joiners were 35 or under,
according to figures released on Wednesday by its Organisation
Department. Growth this year is set be even faster, with 2.31
million joiners in the first six months, bringing membership to
95.15 million. Joining the party is selective process that
normally takes two to three years.
The Organisation Department, in charge of members' affairs,
and China's State Council Information Office did not respond to
requests for comment on what draws youth to the party.
Xi's rise ended a decade of relatively open political
discussion a time when the party was less central to life in
As room for public dissent has narrowed dramatically under
Xi, China has ramped up pro-party education and propaganda,
which has fed rising nationalism, especially among
twenty-somethings, who have known only a thriving and confident
China, four Chinese political analysts said.
"They are only exposed to positive propaganda about how
great the country is," said Zhang Ming, a retired professor of
politics at Renmin University whose social media posts have
often been deleted by censors.
The party's resurgence under Xi, meanwhile, has added to the
perception that membership is important for career and personal
advancement, the party members and experts interviewed by
Several young members said privately that they joined so
that it would be easier to get jobs, especially in cities like
Beijing where a position in civil service provides job security
and makes it easier to get coveted hukou residence status.
"Many of my peers join the party because that can give them
an advantage when applying for jobs," said Roy, a 29-year-old
Chinese doctoral student in Britain who said he joined the party
10 years ago to serve the underprivileged.
'GLORY AND VALIDATION'
When Vivian, 30, was preparing to join the party in high
school, her father told her he expected his only child to be
willing to lay down her life if the party required it - a notion
that gave her pause.
"Then I thought about how I got more life opportunities than
my grandmother, who was illiterate and sold pancakes by the
street, and how I need to step up if I want my children to have
a better life than me," she said during an interview at a
She joined when she graduated from high school, and now
teaches Marxism at a university in southern China.
"Only the students with the best grades get to join the
party, so I see it as a glory and a validation," she said.
(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian
Editing by Tony Munroe and Gerry Doyle)