Next year the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) turns 100. Since its founding in 1921, the CCP has grown from a small cabal of Marxist intellectuals into the world’s second-largest political party, behind only the Bharatiya Janata Party in India. One of the reasons for the CCP’s success has been its cultivation of human capital—any organization is only as good as its people.
Ahead of the Party’s centenary, understanding its longevity requires an understanding of its members. While the Party is frustratingly opaque about internal operations, its human resources division, known as the Organization Department, does publish annual data on membership. After the 2019 numbers were released in June 2020, MacroPolo scoured open source databases to compile the most complete public dataset on CCP membership.
We use that dataset to reveal both new and continuing trends in Party membership, many of which intersect with Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s governance reform agenda. The key findings center on 1) membership growth; 2) selectivity; and 3) composition and representation (see Appendix below for membership data from 1921-2019).