More students than ever are members of the Communist Party of China, figures released on the 84th anniversary of the party's foundation show.
Official sources announced that last year 2.42 million Chinese people joined the party, including 195,000 university students.
Some 8 per cent of all undergraduates are now members, compared with 1.16 per cent in 1990.
Sang Yucheng, a professor at Shanghai's Fudan University, said: "Membership is highly valued among college students today. Chinese universities have become a source of fresh blood for the party."
Official statistics also show that about 45 per cent of undergraduates at Chinese universities and colleges expressed a desire to join the party at some point in the future.
"This stems from the fact that the students subscribe to the party's governance philosophy," said Zhou Yongzhong, a Jiangsu-based sociologist studying young people.
The proportion is due to grow further: government sources predict that by 2007, 12 per cent of university students will be party members.
While the proportion of university students with party membership hovers at about 10 per cent, among graduates it is significantly higher, standing at about 35 per cent.
But Chinese students are increasingly disinterested in the ideals of communism.
A recent poll left government officials shocked when it revealed that many students considered communism "an impossible dream". Even among the older generation, a devout communist cadre is the exception rather than the rule.
Instead, party membership is still seen as a great boon to one's career. It is vital for promotion in the civil service, state media or the military.
The state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Chen Mingsong, a graduate student in the department of computer science at Nanjing University, who became a CPC member this June, as saying: "The reason I joined is that I agree with the basic principles and guidelines of the party.
"As a member of the ruling party, I will speak out about my opinions more directly and maintain my enthusiasm towards political affairs, although I don't want to be a statesman."
While party membership figures for university staff are not available, it is generally acknowledged that lecturers are quite sharply divided between the two camps.
A good political background is, with few exceptions, required for an academic to progress to senior management and even, in the more prestigious coastal universities, to be appointed head of a department.
Other academics, in particular in social sciences, make a deliberate choice to avoid the network of party affiliation, forgoing position in favour of less scrutiny of their academic work.