In 1987 the CCP had 46 million members (4.3 percent of the national population). To qualify as party members, applicants must be at least eighteen years of age and must go through a one-year probationary period. Emphasis is placed on the applicant's technical and educational qualifications rather than on ideological criteria. Members are expected, however, to be both "red" and "expert", and the need to make the party apparatus more responsive to the demands and wishes of the masses of the people is stressed.
A major corollary of the self-improvement and self-cleansing activities is an ongoing campaign to weed out corrupt and dishonest party officials from all levels of the party organizations. Ideally this is accomplished by persuasion, but if necessary by punishment. The party's seriousness concerning this campaign was underlined with its September 1986 expulsion of the governor and party deputy secretary of Jiangxi Province for "violations of law and discipline" and "unhealthy tendencies" that purportedly included corruption, moral degeneration, abuse of official power, intercession in favor of relatives and friends, leaking of secret information, and many other charges.
Significantly, the party also experimented with the direct election of its party committee members. In late 1984 Hu Yaobang prescribed election procedures for direct election under a limited franchise of the Shaanxi Province party secretary. This election process included involvement of a large number of cadres down to the county level, open nominations, and a series of runoff elections, reportedly with no interference from either the central party Secretariat or the provincial party committee. In addition, party election procedures required that the number of candidates be greater than the number of persons to be elected.
In 1987 efforts to upgrade organizational effectiveness, unity, and discipline were proceeding in accordance with a document adopted in September 1986 by the Sixth Plenum of the Twelfth Central Committee. The "Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Guiding Principles for Building a Socialist Society with an Advanced Culture and Ideology" shifted attention away from the controversial issue of "unhealthy tendencies" in the party to focus on the need for academic freedom, mass supervision of the party, and other aspects of political reform. The stated goal was to build a truly communist society, but one defined authoritatively as "socialism with Chinese characteristics." Party energies and discipline were to be directed at achieving this goal and removing all obstructions and obstructionists. Thus, while earlier the party had identified corruption as a prime target, this concern was replaced with attention to "indigenous feudal tendencies" that might hinder success in economic modernization. The plenum endorsed the party's commitment to political reform and the extension of "socialist democracy and improving the socialist legal system, all for the purpose of facilitating socialist modernization."
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