China’s Leading Ideologist: Wang Huning - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
China’s Leading Ideologist: Wang Huning
President of Russia Vladimir Putin with President of China Xi Jinping at the Belt and Road international forum, May 14, 2017. Wang Huning is behind them, in glasses. (Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia Commons)

Contrary to Western optimists during the past thirty years, China’s communist leadership has not forsworn its Maoist ideology in favor of some form of autocratic state-capitalism. Ideological communism in the form of Xi Jinping Thought holds sway over the senior leadership of the CCP. China’s post-Cold War leaders skillfully disguised their devotion to Marxism-Leninism to attract Western finance, trade, and political goodwill, even as they engaged in a massive military buildup, sought to expand their control over the South China Sea, cracked down on democracy in Hong Kong, threatened Taiwan, and sought to expand China’s economic and political influence across Eurasia and Africa with the Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s leading ideologist and political strategist is Wang Huning, one of the seven members of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee and arguably, except for Xi, the most important member. This 67-year-old intellectual has been a key adviser to three Chinese presidents (Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Xi) and a careful observer of American culture and politics. He has been compared to Talleyrand, Metternich, Kissinger, and Vladimir Surkov, a key adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin. More accurately, he has been compared to Han Fei, the ancient (280-223 B.C.) Chinese philosopher and statesman who some historians call “China’s Machiavelli.” John Mac Ghlionn in the American Conservative calls Wang “the most influential man in China.” Dylan Levi King calls him “the man behind Xi Jinping.”

Wang has authored 20 books and numerous essays about Chinese politics and culture. In 1988, he spent six months in the United States as a “visiting scholar,” after which he wrote America Against America (1991) which focused on the social and cultural problems of American society, which Wang blamed on excessive individualism and political liberalism.

It wasn’t long after Wang’s visit to America that the CCP faced the political crisis and upheaval of the Tiananmen Square protests and the subsequent crackdown by the Chinese regime. A few years later, Wang was selected to head-up the Political Affairs Division of the Central Policy Research Office (CPRO) of the CCP’s Central Committee, and later served as the CPRO’s director. He was elected to the Central Committee in 2002, and has served in the Politburo since 2012. According to Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution, Wang “is one of only a few leaders favored by all three of the most recent party bosses” and “is believed to be the source of Xi’s signature political concepts and more assertive foreign policy.” At the most recent Party Congress, Wang was “one of just two top officials reappointed to join President Xi Jinping on the elite seven-man Politburo Standing committee.”

The Economist claims that Wang “has shaped [China’s] leaders’ defining policies for more than two decades.” Nikkei Asia writes that Xi has assigned Wang to formulate a political strategy for reunification with Taiwan. Wang recently presided over the presidium meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing. Some dissidents describe Wang as “the brain behind Xi Jinping.”

Hoover Institution China scholars believe that one of Wang’s key roles is to reinforce the monolithic nature of communist ideology in China’s politics‚ both domestic and foreign. And he also sides with Samuel Huntington’s view of America and China being involved in a “clash of civilizations.” This does not bode well for those American observers who continue to propose “engagement” with China.

A recent profile of Wang in the New Yorker notes that “it has become increasingly plain that Western political ideas no longer hold any currency within the [Chinese Communist] Party.” It is doubtful that they ever did. Hopefully, U.S. strategists on the National Security Council, in the State Department and the Pentagon are studying the life, career, and writings of Wang Huning. As Sun Tzu wrote: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Image: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
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