Chinese Communist Party symbol
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Who is the CCP? China's Communist Party in infographics

The largest political party in the world with a membership of more than 96 million, the Communist Party of China will host its National Congress on October 16. The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is the most important political event in China’s political calendar as it decides on who will lead the party, and by extension the government, for the next five years. 

The congress runs for one week until October 22, during which the selection of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China will be made, revealing China’s new supreme leaders to the world. Everyone is watching whether Xi Jinping seeks a third term as general secretary of the party, breaking a norm established by his two predecessors that general secretaries serve only two terms before stepping down.

The CCP has grown steadily and now comprises around 6.9% of the Chinese population. In an attempt to increase the “quality” of its members, the CCP raised membership requirements. This led to a decrease in the annual number of new members admitted after 2012, a trend now reversed.

Millions of Chinese are still applying for party membership every year.

Although the overall age profile of the party is only changing slowly.

The drive to increase member “quality” is showing results. Applications by younger academics are favored, while workers and farmers, once the CCP’s backbone, are decreasing in numbers.

Women remain underrepresented. Although the number of female members is rising, there are almost no women in the party elite. Currently only one woman, Sun Chunlan, holds a position in China’s central party administration.

The path to CCP membership is not easy. Application has become a multi-year vetting process and most applicants make several attempts before they are accepted. Xi Jinping himself is said to have applied 10 times.

The CCP is pushing its organization deeper into the economy. Any organization with three or more CCP members has to establish a party group – and most companies have done so by now. CCP representation and mobilization at grass-roots level and in private companies is likely to grow even more under Xi Jinping.