Zhang Xi’en, professor from the School of Politics and Public Administration at Shandong University, recently proposed a suggestion that the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) should limit the number of its incumbent party members to 30 million and maintain a “moderate scale” (shi du gui mo, 适度规模) of 51 million members in the future.

The CCP, being the largest political party in the world, currently has 80 million party members as of 2010 and takes up around 6% of the total population of mainland China, and the total number keeps increasing by 2 million per year. Despite complex procedure, some Chinese are quite eager to join the CPP, usually not because of their aspiration to or belief in communism, but of the fact that being a Party member can add to their future promotion in the work place, especially within the state-own-enterprises or governmental bodies.

Much as the CPP is closely linked with Chairman Mao and his tenet of building the Party and the nation, quite a portion of CCP members today bear a grudge towards or at least have doubts about his dogma and about communism. Perhaps that is what drove President Xi Jinpin, who tries hard to strike a balance between being “left” and being “right” (or at least appears so), stated explicitly that “it was of great significance that Deng Xiaoping firmly defended Mao Zedong and Maoism. Otherwise, our Party would not last; nor would our Socialism. Had they collapsed, China would fall down to a chaos.”

The statement echoes Mr. Zhang’s suggestions, which at its root aims at “maintaining the purity of the Party and the quality of the Party members.”

It is indeed important, especially in a one-party state, and the fact that Chinese citizens display a weakening if not losing faith in the CCP and the central government because of the constant corruption scandals makes the situation more urgent than ever.

Shao Xian Dui & Gong Qing Tuan

In fact, the CCP has complete and down-to-earth system to cultivate potential members, which is often regarded as a “brainwash” system though. The bond between Chinese and the CPP happens long before one realize it, often starting from one’s preliminary school. Most Chinese children aged six to 14 are members of the Young Pioneers of China (zhong guo shao nian xian feng dui, 中国少年先锋队, aka shao xian dui, 少先队), which is run by the Communist Youth League (gong qing tuan, 共青团). People with a sense of communism-phobia would say that the CCP is brainwashing children since their early age; the fact is, most of these children do not even know the meaning of joining Shao Xian Dui. Many of them fight for this membership out of a sense of pride and simply do not want to be left behind, since the majority of their class is the Shao Xian Dui member.

Upon reaching the age of 14, the Shao Xian Dui members automatically exit the organization and may go on to join the Gong Qing Tuan, a more mature and important organization run by the CCP. It is much easier to join the Gong Qing Tuan than to join the CCP and most Chinese maintain their affiliation with the CCP at this level without pursuing any further.

However, if you somehow get to the top of the Gong Qing Tuan, you will likely become a leading figure in the central government and in the CCP. Just look at how current Premier Li Keqiang, former Present Hu Jintao, former President Hu Yaobang, current vice President Li Yuanchao and vice Premier Liu Yandong; the list is endless. These people, having taken high-ranking roles in the Gong Qing Tuan and gain powers within the CCP often by their own efforts and help from each other, are referred to as Tuan Pai (团派), as differentiation from the Princelings (Tai Zi Dang, 太子党), who are the descendants of prominent and influential senior officials of the CCP. President Xi is just one of the examples as his is the son of Xi Zhongxun, political leader among the first generation of Chinese leadership.

The origin of their power—whether they inherit it from their ancestors or struggle for it on their own—often has a decisive effect on how they think the CCP SHOULD be. That may again explains why President Xi emphasized the legitimate and unshakable role of Chairman Mao. Perhaps next time when Mr. Zhang suggested that the number of the CCP members should be maintained around the scale of 51 million, he would want to add an additional advice: make sure all of them welcome Maoism.