BEIJING (AFP) - China's ruling Communist Party topped 80 million members last year, a yearly increase of nearly three percent, a top official said Friday as the party gears up for its 90th anniversary next week. More than half of the party's 80.27 million members were 46 years or older and more than a quarter were over the age of 60, said Wang Qinfeng, deputy chief of the party's Organisation Department, which handles personnel matters. But the party was seeing continued applications by and recruitment of young people, college students, and women, Wang told reporters at a press briefing. More than three million people applied or were targeted for recruitment into the world's largest political party in 2010, he said. Of these, 81.8 percent were under the age of 35 and 38.5 percent were women, Wang said. The percentage of full party members in 2010 who were under 35 was 24.3 percent, while 22.5 percent were women. "The ranks of party members and grassroots party organisations have continuously developed" since the 1949 founding of communist China, he said. The briefing was one of a series recently to extol the ruling party's history and accomplishments ahead of the July 1 anniversary of its founding. China has pushed in recent years to expand the party's membership beyond the traditional make-up of government functionaries, retirees, blue-collar workers and farmers. In particular, talented youths have been targeted, many of whom view membership as a prerequisite for a coveted civil service job. Members of the business community, who have only been allowed into the party over the past decade, are seen as eyeing a party card as a good business move due to the connections it can spark. Aspirants from "private sector organisations" made up 4.3 percent of all applicants and recruits last year, Wang said. Another 40 percent in 2010 were college students. The actual net increase in the party's total membership in 2010 was 2.23 million. There were 4.5 million Communist Party members at the time of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.