The Leaderboard: Wang Huning

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.

Who is he?

Wang Huning, a current member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo and head of the CCP’s Central Policy Research Office, is commonly believed to be one of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s top policy advisors.

Born in 1955 in Shanghai, Wang graduated from Fudan University with a degree in international politics and was promoted to be Fudan University’s youngest dean when he was only in his thirties. A decade later, Wang’s career track shifted abruptly from academia to politics. He was summoned in 1995 by former president Jiang Zemin to Beijing to head the Department of Political Studies in the Central Policy Research Office. In an unprecedented run of influence among advisors in contemporary elite Chinese politics, he has served consecutively as a key advisor to China’s three top leaders over the past two decades: Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and now Xi Jinping.

Why is he in the news?

Wang accompanies President Xi on all of his domestic and international travel. Most recently, Wang traveled with Xi to the United States in September, the United Kingdom in October, Vietnam and Singapore in November, and Paris in December. Though Wang attends everyone of Xi’s meetings, he maintains an extremely low profile. While academic journal articles published in Wang’s early years are available online, there are no publicly available publications or speeches by Wang since he moved to Beijing.

Wang is best known for his contributions on domestic politics. Leading his small team in the Central Policy Research Office, Wang has coined catchy phrases, turned ideological theories into nationally relevant campaigns, shaped national planning, and drafted speeches for China’s top leaders. Wang is believed to be the key initiator and architect of political campaigns issued by three successive Chinese presidents: President Jiang’s “Three Represents,” President Hu’s “harmonious society” and “scientific development,” and President Xi’s “China Dream.” In 1986, Wang argued in an academic article that a strong concentration of power is a necessity for reform. This is entirely consistent with the centralization of power and policy under Xi Jinping.

What can we expect from him?

Wang has also undoubtedly played a behind the scenes role in President Xi’s new foreign policy initiatives. Wang was appointed as one of the deputy leaders of the “Leading Small Group for Advancing the Development of One Belt One Road,” which can be regarded as Wang’s first explicit position directly related to foreign affairs. And while attending the United Nations climate summit and meeting with U.S. president Barack Obama in Paris this month, Wang was expected to provide critical insights to his boss on these key issues.

Given his strong record to date, it is likely Wang will continue to help President Xi centralize power at home and project stronger influence abroad.

Thumbnail image of Wang Huning from Voice of America, U.S. Government Work.


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