This thesis is a qualitative case study of how the younger generations of China value membership in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Through the use of individualisation theory it has further set out to find out whether and how Party membership is used as a career strategy in their making of a ‘career of their own’. The individualisation thesis states that as the burden of responsibility is increasingly laid upon the individual, the individual is forced to make sense of this new situation through a biographic response: a ‘do-it-yourself biography’. The analysis is based on interviews with 22 students at two universities in Beijing, Peking University and Tsinghua University.
As the CCP controls all assignments to the state and reserve most leading cadre positions to their own members, joining the Party is considered crucial to do career within the state sector. The importance the students interviewed ascribe Party membership therefore to a large degree depended on whether they aimed at a career within the governmental organs or the state-owned enterprises, or not. Among those who had applied for Party membership, the majority saw working within the system as one of their options upon graduation. However, the Party does no longer have a monopoly on career mobility. There are also other pathways to upward mobility and success that might be both quicker and more effective means to success and money than working within the system. Several students therefore did not want to apply for Party membership.
The thesis concludes that there are signs of individualisation in the way Chinese students think about career. They make strategies and take conscious choices to achieve the careers they want. In these strategies, Party membership is important for those who want to pursue state sector jobs. At the same time, the choices they make and the strategies they follow, to a large degree show the same features. This comes down to the fact that the choices they make are institutionally dependent. Their career options are dependent on their education, their contact network and whether they are admitted into the Party.