The Communist Party’s membership last year grew at its slowest pace since 1989, its Organisation Department said on Thursday in an annual bulletin ahead of Friday’s 95th anniversary of the party’s founding . At the end of the year, the party had added 965,000 members, an increase of 1.1 per cent over 2014. Between 1990 and 2012, the year President Xi Jinping came to power, membership grew by an average of about 2.2 per cent a year, according to the department’s figures. Since then, growth in new members has steadily declined. Political analysts said the lower rates reflected some of Xi’s achievements in streamlining and weeding out unwanted elements. Xi became party general secretary in late 2012. The red badge of loyalty: Communist Party urges members to wear pins in unity drive “Unlike his predecessors Hu Jintao and, especially, Jiang Zemin who encouraged leading entrepreneurs to join the party in the aftermath of the crackdown of the June 4 protests in 1989, Xi pledged to control the size of the party and purge ‘unqualified members’,” Shanghai-based political scientist Chen Diaoyin said. Under Jiang’s “Three Represents” theory introduced in 2000, the party sought to represent the country’s booming private entrepreneurial class, among others while trying to counter the party’s critics. “China cultivated so many promising social elites in the 1980s when the country becoming a genuinely pluralistic society after its opening-up in 1978,” Chen said. After theJune 4 crackdown, many elites left the party or kept their distance Political scientist Chen Diaoyin “After theJune 4 crackdown, many elites left the party or kept their distance. Some became successful entrepreneurs. Jiang devised his ‘Three Represents’ idea to bring them back to the party, in a bid to lessen the chance of political dissent.” Xi launched a “self-purification” push along with his nationwide anti-corruption campaign in January 2013, just a few months after taking over the party’s helm. He said the party should not only optimise its membership by keeping ‘good quality’ members, but also persuade unqualified members to resign. New Communist Party rules to test cadres’ political loyalty … and they’ll be punished if they fail Lin Xiaoguang , a researcher at the Central Party School, said Xi’s self-purification campaign had scared off some candidates who once planned to join the party. “In the past, cadres of party branches had quota obligations to admit new members. But now candidates must meet stricter requirements and undergo more assessment,” Lin said. Chen said that compared with before 1989, the party was nowtrying to enlist more well-educated candidates. “Only one of my classmates joined the party in 1989, but now dozens of university students have been admitted from my old department,” Chen said. The bulletin said the total number of Communist Party members rose to more than 88.7 million last year, 44 per cent of whom had a college degree or above. At least one-third of the members are under 40, while 16 per cent are 30 or younger.