John L. Thornton China Center

Wang Huning 王沪宁

One of China's Top Future Leaders to Watch

  • Born 1955
  • Member of Secretariat (2007–present)
  • Director of the Central Policy Research Center of the CCP Central Committee (2002– present)
  • Full member of the Central Committee of the CCP (2002–present)

Personal and Professional Background

Wang Huning was born in 1955 in Shanghai Municipality (his ancestral/family home is usually cited as Laizhou County, Shandong Province).[1] Wang joined the CCP in 1984. He studied French language in the Cadre Training Class at Shanghai Normal University in Shanghai Municipality (1972–77) and attended the graduate program in International Politics at Fudan University in Shanghai Municipality (1978–1981), where he also received a master’s degree in law (1981). He was a visiting scholar at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa (USA) and the University of California at Berkeley (1988–89). Wang speaks French fluently, and holds the rank of professor. He began his career as a cadre in the Publication Bureau of the Shanghai Municipal Government (1977–78). After receiving his master’s degree, he remained at Fudan University in Shanghai and served as an instructor, associate professor, and professor (1981–89), then as chairman of the Department of International Politics (1989–1994) and dean of the law school (1994–95). Wang moved to Beijing in 1995 and served as head of the Political Affairs Division of the Central Policy Research Center (CPRC) of the CCP Central Committee (1995–98), and deputy director of the CPRC (1998–2002).

Family and Patron-Client Ties

Wang Huning is one of the very few leaders who are favored by both Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Wang is believed to have served as an informal channel for communication between Jiang and Hu in recent years. In the late 1980s he established his patron-mentor relationship with Jiang Zemin and Zeng Qinghong who were then top leaders in Shanghai, and thus he is a member of the “Shanghai Gang.” Since Hu succeeded Jiang as general secretary of the CCP and president of the PRC in 2002–2003, Wang has become a top aide to Hu and has frequently accompanied him on domestic and international trips. Wang’s ex-wife, Zhou Qi, is the daughter of a vice-minister ranking leader who worked in the area of state security and intelligence. Wang and Zhou were classmates in the master’s program at Fudan, and Zhou later received a Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) and currently serves as a research fellow in the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). The couple divorced in 1996 and do not have any children. Wang was recently remarried.

Political Prospects and Policy Preferences

Wang will most likely obtain a seat in the Politburo at the 18th Party Congress and concurrently serve one of the following posts: director of the CCP Propaganda Department, state councilor (the post that Liu Yandong currently holds), party secretary of Shanghai or another major city/province. Wang is believed to have been a principal Li, China Leadership Monitor, no. 39 7 drafter of the theory of the “three represents” expounded by Jiang.[2] In his early career as a political science professor and law school dean at Fudan University in the 1980s, Wang published many books and was considered a leading scholar advocating neoauthoritarianism.[3] Wang Huning recently republished a 1986 article in which he argued that “public security, prosecutors, and the court merging into one” was one of the main reasons for the prevalent human rights violations such as torture and vandalism during the Cultural Revolution. He stated unambiguously that “the Cultural Revolution could happen only in a country without an independent judicial system.”[4] Wang’s hot-button issues may include the promotion of rule of law and political reforms.


[1] Sohu.Com, posted on October 24, 2008,

[2] In contrast to the Marxist notion that the Communist Party should be the “vanguard of the working class,” Jiang’s theory claims that the CCP should represent the “developmental needs of the advanced forces of production,” the “forward direction of advanced culture,” and the “fundamental interests of the majority of the Chinese people.”

[3] For the early career of Wang Huning and his writings, see “Hu Jintao’s two mysterious right-hand men: Ling Jinhua and Wang Huning” (胡锦涛身边的神秘左右手:令计划和王沪宁), Social Perspective (社会聚焦), posted on April 7, 2010,

[4] Wang Huning 王沪宁, “The Reflection of the Cultural Revolution and the Reform of China’s Political System” (文革反思与政治改革). Readers’ Digest (文摘), February 23, 2012, originally appeared in The World Economic Herald (世界经济导报), May 1986.

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