China’s President Xi Jinping is considering ending undergraduate admission to the Communist Youth League (CYL), the traditional path to power in the country, reports indicated on Monday.
Unlike many in the leadership of the Communist Party of China, President Xi did not join the CYL League’s University of Political Science, which was founded in 1985. Former President Hu Jintao was a leading figure in the youth league. Now it seems like the organization’s influence might be curbed, according to a report by Bloomberg.
“Such a move would send a message to younger people about an organization that’s been a traditional springboard for leadership posts but was not the route to power for Xi. It could reverberate through a twice-a-decade reshuffle at next year’s party congress, when several prominent league alumni will be in the running for positions in the party’s uppermost echelons.”
Under the leadership of Hu Jintao, who like Xi served as both President and General Secretary of the Communist Party, key government positions in both the provincial and central levels were likely to be filled by former members of the China Youth University of Political Studies. Many of his proteges, such as Premier Li Keqiang, were groomed through the league.
Xi has previously criticized the youth league for being aristocratic and lacking transparency, saying they need to get more in touch with the masses. Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Renmin University in Beijing, echoed these sentiments in the Bloomberg report.
“The Youth League has been a shortcut for young party hotshots to climb the career ladder,” Ming said. “They’re surrounded by this halo that they’d be powerful leaders one day. Clearly Xi is not happy about that.”
The league’s university discontinuing admissions was first reported to Bloomberg by inside sources who asked not be identified because the decision is not yet final, though it is being guided by senior officials. If followed through, the decision would leave the university with post-graduate training programs for cadres.
However, not everyone is fond of the possible decision. Business Insider reported that the news that the CYL might discontinue its political program was initially met with resistance by an instructor named Yang Zhizhu, who criticized the effort to end the undergraduate program in a post on the WeChat mobile messaging platform.
“One instructor wrote a post about the decision on Weibo and said that it was perhaps a bit too hasty. That was on Thursday, but it had already been taken down by Friday, when the university put out a statement saying that it was looking at ‘reform’ options.”
The university’s statement about deliberating “deep reform” plans followed a “reform motivation conference” on Tuesday, in which current youth chief Qin Yizhi called for members to implement policies in the spirit of the speeches of President Xi. Business Insider reported that the call for reform may be the first step in curbing the influence of the program on Chinese politics.
“Experts say that you can expect more cuts to CYL programming and more ‘reforms’ coming for the organization in general. You can also expect to see fewer CYL members ascending the ranks of politics. This was an organization for China’s elite — for princelings — and Xi was not a part of that growing up.”
While the exact number of undergraduate students in the cadre training programs is not known, the programs have an annual capacity of 10,000, and the university has a staff of over 400. The youth league’s Shanghai branch announced last month it would begin reforms by stripping government rankings from senior officials and eliminating departments.
Several calls to university staff by Bloomberg were not answered.
[Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images]