With over 80 million members, China's Communist Party is the largest in the world. But its young members are more interested in helping their own reputation than the teachings of Marx and Mao.
The young, thin woman with long black hair doesn't wish to be named or share at which state-owned company she works at in Beijing out of fear for the repercussions of talking to the press without permission. Still, she is proud. Proud that she has been a member of the Communist Party for three years.
"Maybe I was only chosen because I studied international politics; everyone around me wants to join the party," she said.
But not everyone is invited to the party. China's Communist Party only wants the best. Whoever wants to join must have excellent grades. They have to fill out an application, take preparation courses and pass an entrance examination. Those accepted are put on a probationary period and have to write reports on self-reflections every three months. Then they must also swear an oath of loyalty to the party. Why bother with all the trouble?
"It can help in your career," the woman said. "If you can write down under 'political status' that you are a party member, then it means you think positively and that you are active. It makes a good impression."
Many young Chinese see the party as stepping stone for their career. They study for the entrance exam like they would study for an important test at school. They stay up round the clock memorizing dates and facts to pass the exam. Afterward they can forget everything they studied, because in daily life, the party has no real meaning, according to some young Communists. But not all think that way.
"I still feel honored. I feel like I am different from other people. I am on a higher level. I have more progressive thoughts than normal people," said a 31-year-old woman who became a party member eight years ago and also works in a state-owned company.
Many people see the party as an elite club or as the forefront of the Chinese nation. That is why the party maintains an exclusive acceptance policy. It recruits the future leadership of the country. It wants to attract young, modern and trendy people - people who own middle-class cars and their own apartments.
"Normally we read the speeches of the party leaders and discuss them. Our instructor then recaps what we talk about and shows us the mistakes in our thought processes. He teaches us how to think correctly," the party member explained.
The party also acts as a guiding light and moral authority. At least that's what it says it does. The fact that the party has been failing somewhat in that degree is known to party leaders - because abuse of authority is something the common Chinese cares about.
"There is too much corruption, too much bribery. The more power a person has, the more corruption and graft there will be," one person said.
Many said they believe the upcoming 18th Party Congress will do little to change all of that. The change in the party's leadership does not really matter to them; people are in the party for pragmatic reasons, not out of conviction. But that's not something that will not be talked about in the party meeting.