As China's ruling Communist Party prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary (July 1), many Chinese are literally singing the party's praises as its membership rolls reach a new high. The question is, what does the Communist Party mean to ordinary Chinese, young and old?

Jingshan Park in central Beijing is perhaps best known for its view of the Forbidden City.

It's also a place where people gather to enjoy the songs they grew up with in Communist China, the so-called "red" songs that praise the revolutionary rise of the Communist Party 90 years ago.

Ms. Huang, 46, says she sometimes comes to the park when she has the day off from work. "I can sing these old revolutionary songs and I can project my voice.  I really cannot sing the new popular songs," Huang  said.

The people singing in the park say mostly good things about the Chinese Communist Party, which they credit with bringing prosperity to China.

Zhao Yujun, 72, is a retired researcher.  He says he is satisfied with how the party has turned out, but says its path was not without setbacks.

"Of course, the party made mistakes sometimes, including the Cultural Revolution and the political movements before it.  They wronged some people.  For example, intellectuals were oppressed and they were afraid to talk," he said.

More than 2.5 million of the Chinese Communist Party's 80-million members are students.  Wang Yaping, 20, is not a party member yet, but she is more than hopeful her application will be accepted.

"Party members, compared to ordinary people, have a higher political standing, have more social recognition and get more respect," she noted.  "I do have some practical motives.  To be honest, there is virtually no one now who doesn't have a practical motive."

Party member Xiao Yao is 23 years old.  She says the Party is an impressive organization, but is not as good as it could be.  "I think real communism is very difficult to realize," Xiao explained.  "In the midst of development, many beliefs will change.  It is hard to say.  So many young people don't like to talk about politics, because it is difficult to see and feel a significant amount of political change, at least in my lifetime."

Xiao and her roommate sing "The East is Red," but say they would be more comfortable with a songbook that helps remind them of the correct words.

Back in the park, many older people still know the words by heart and have no trouble singing along.