China's ruling Communist Party recruits fewer members in 2014 despite expanding national reach

China's ruling Communist Party says it recruited almost 15 percent fewer new members last year as if focuses on better qualified candidates.

A party statement said that accounting for deaths and other losses, membership expanded by 1.1 million members, or 1.3 percent in 2014, to a total of 87.79 million. An additional 56,000 party units were added in offices and companies nationwide for a total of 4.36 million.

However, recruitment of new members fell by 14.6 percent to just over 2 million, or 351,000 fewer than in 2013. Of those new recruits, 82 percent were below age 35 and 38 percent had at least a college degree, 2.6 percent more than in 2013.

Chinese president and Communist leader Xi Jinping has sought to strengthen party control while weeding out corruption.