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China's Leaders Meet, So Do Nation's Youth

China is holding its 17th Communist Party Congress in Beijing this week. And while the nation's leaders are meeting in the Great Hall, young communists are meeting at universities across the country. Sam Beattie reports that many Chinese students see Communist Party membership as a way to stabilize their future in a rapidly changing society.

The hundreds of students packed into a university lecture hall are what the Communist Youth League calls "model students."

Many here want to join the Communist Party of China. Party members say that students who want to join China's most powerful political organization must have strong academic records. They also must spend time volunteering in the community and get references from respected party members.

This annual gathering is to recognize the work of this university's members. They say the Youth League is a coveted organization for young people.

Youth League member Cai Yuanji says, "Those who want to develop themselves, should join the Youth League to get educated and trained and participate in activities that continuously discipline them to make them better people."

Another Youth League member, Ren Cong, says, "The Party can give us a sense of stability. I think people with a credo [creed] can live more peacefully. For us, we don't have any religious beliefs, no long term foundations. The Party gives me the courage to walk further and the determination to make decisions."

In this booming and competitive economy, China's students also are looking for ways to get ahead.

Professor Chen Shengluo from the China Youth University for Political Science says his research indicates many students think party membership will help them get ahead in their careers. Shengluo says, "Now there are a lot of university students who want to be public servants, and being a Party member is an advantage. So I think there are a lot of people joining the Party with these realistic considerations."

The Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper reports that in recent years just 25 percent of those who have applied to the Communist Party have been accepted. This awards meeting recognizes Youth League members who are trying to meet the Communist Party's criteria, and join its ranks of more than 73 million members.