President Hu Jintao yesterday urged the country's youth to uphold Communist Party ideology and promote social morals and stability in a speech to mark the 90th anniversary of the Communist Youth League. Hu, to whom the 78-million-member league has provided a key power base, told a big gathering in Beijing that only the party can correctly guide future generations. He called on young people to 'firmly believe in the huge superiority and powerful vitality of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics'. 'The history of China's youth movement is a history of the numerous Chinese young people who persistently strive under the party's leadership,' he said. He urged regional party authorities to consider propaganda work with young people a fundamental and strategic task, and to spend more time listening to and trying to understand their hardships. '[League officials] should implement the party's theories, policies and the central government's decisions into the league's work ... and strive to cover all of the country's young people under the league's network,' the president said. The gathering was hosted by Vice-President Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed Hu. Lu Hao, the league's first secretary, told the gathering it would work to expand its ideology and organisation down to sub-districts and neighbourhoods, and in high schools. Lu said new media would be used to reach out to a digital generation. '[We'll] explore how to use internet technology to extensively cover, unite and lead the young people ... to foster a harmonious society,' Lu said. Veteran China watcher and political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the party was launching a digital battle to defend its ideology with young people who have been influenced profoundly by the internet, where traditional communist ideology has been forgotten. 'Top Chinese leaders realise they need to adopt more modern technologies to strive for support from the young generation, to ensure they aren't driven by Western values,' Lau said. Hu reiterated the 'core values of socialism' in his speech, saying young people should remember traditional ideals and maintain a harmonious society, in an apparent reference to what the party has said is a decline in morals and a rise in public anger and social unrest. People's Daily and China Youth Daily published editorials on the anniversary, saying the league's history showed it would always uphold the party's leadership and ideology. The youth league has only two million fewer members than the Communist Party as a whole, according to Xinhua. Officials sources say nearly a quarter of the party's members are under 35. Many had previously been youth league members.