John L. Thornton China Center

Ma Wen 马馼

One of China's Top Future Leaders to Watch

  • Born 1948
  • Deputy secretary of the CCP Central Discipline Inspection Commission (2004-present)
  • Minister of Supervision (2007-present)
  • Full member of the CCP Central Committee (2007-present)

Personal and Professional Background

Ma Wen was born in 1948 in Wuqiao County, Hebei Province. Ma joined the CCP in 1972. She started work in 1968 as a “sent-down youth” (working as a manual laborer in the countryside) in the Sudulun Commune, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and later became deputy head of a commune brigade and deputy head of the commune’s revolutionary committee (1972-78). She received a bachelor’s degree in Chinese history from Nankai University in Tianjin (1978-82). Ma served as deputy secretary of the CCP Committee of a branch campus of Nankai University in Tianjin and later as deputy party secretary of the university (1982-89). She became deputy director of the Publicity Department of the National Family Planning Commission (NFPC), and later she served as secretary of the disciplinary inspection committee of departments under the NFPC and a member of the Central State Organs Disciplinary Inspection Work Committee (1989-97). Ma became a Standing Committee member of the CCP Central Discipline Inspection Commission (CDIC) (1997-2004) and was concurrently secretary of the Central State Organs Disciplinary Inspection Work Committee (1997-2004). She was promoted to CDIC deputy secretary (2004)—she is one of only three women to hold this position (after Deng Yingchao and Liu Liying). Following the death of former Minister of Supervision Li Zhilun in April 2007, Ma succeeded him and served concurrently as the director of both the newly established National Bureau of Corruption Prevention as well as of the Correcting Industrial Illegitimate Practice Office of the State Council. A full member of the CCP Central Committee since 2007, Ma was re-appointed as minister of supervision at the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC) in March 2008. She has served as deputy secretary of the CDIC since 2004.

Family and Patron-Client Ties

Ma Wen first met her husband Yu Zhenqi at the same high school in Tianjin. Both were “sent-down youths” in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and both were enrolled in the Department of History at Nankai University in 1978 (Ma as an undergraduate and Yu as a graduate student). Yu, who received a Ph.D. in international relations at the Foreign Affairs College in Beijing, later served as the PRC ambassador to Belarus (2002-05) and to Bulgaria (2005-07).[1] Yu is currently vice chairman and director of the Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia Research Center of the China Foundation for International Studies. Their daughter Yu Fan, who graduated from Duke University Law School in 2003, currently works in a law firm in Hong Kong. It has been widely believed that Li Ruihuan, a heavyweight political leader who originated from Tianjin, found Ma Wen and brought her to Beijing in 1989 when Li was appointed a member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Ma later formed a strong protege relationship with Premier Wen Jiabao when both worked in the Central Government organs.[2]

Political Prospects and Policy Preferences

Ma Wen’s career advancement in the past few years has been closely related to the CCP’s new initiatives to restrain rampant official corruption. She has been a member of the core group that has handled the criminal cases of former minister of railway Liu Zhijun, former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai, as well as related cases. Ma may be a leading candidate to become a member of the Politburo or the State Council in charge of anti-corruption work if the CCP leadership decides to increase its efforts in this area in order to regain public confidence. Her most important policy agenda is to establish more effective measures to deal with rampant official corruption in legal, institutional, and sociopolitical domains.


[1] Yu Zhenqi, 于振起 The Diplomatic Life of a Sent-down Youth Turned Ambassador (驻外札记, 一个知青大使的外交生活片段 (Tianjin,Nankai University Press, 2009).

[2] Lu Konghai 陆空海,“Ma Wen and her Lawyer Daughter” 马馼和她的律师女儿 Mirror Monthly 明镜月刊, No. 20, 2012.

Editor's Note: The profile above was prepared by the China Center's Cheng Li and originally appeared in the China Leadership Monitor.