The worldview of Wang Huning, the Party’s leading theoretician


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This week on Sinica, we present a deep-dive into the worldview of China’s leading Party theorist, Wáng Hùníng 王沪宁. Wang — the only member of the Politburo Standing Committee who has not run a province or provincial-level municipality — is believed to have been the thinker behind ideas as central (and as ideologically distinct) as Jiāng Zémín’s 江泽民 signature “Three Represents,” which brought capitalists into the Chinese Communist Party; Hú Jǐntāo’s 胡锦涛 “Scientific Outlook on Development” that focused on social harmony; and Xí Jìnpíng’s “Chinese Dream” that aimed at the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” While much of Wang’s life since he entered government has been hidden from view, his earlier writings contain many ideas that appear to have shaped Party policy across the tenure of three Party general secretaries over a period of nearly three decades, and offer clues about what still might be in store. Kaiser is joined by Joseph Fewsmith III, an eminent professor of political science at Boston University; the intellectual historian Timothy Cheek, professor of history at the University of British Columbia, whose work has focused on establishment intellectuals in the PRC; and Matthew Johnson, principal and founder of the China-focused consultancy AltaSilva LLC, who has studied and written about Wang extensively.

4:31 – An outline of Wang Huning’s career

8:36 – Wang Huning’s personality and temperament

12:28 – Wang speaks

16:45 – Wang as an example of post-charismatic leadership loyalty

24:02 – Wang’s America Against America

31:04 – Wang Huning’s concepts of cultural security and cultural sovereignty

46:36 – Wang and Document Number Nine

55:39 – Chinese conceptions of democracy

A transcript of this podcast is available on


Matt: The Nerves of Government: Models of Political Communication and Control by Karl Deutsch; and

The Logic of Images in International Relations by Robert Jervis.

Joe: Now that more Americans recognize that China is not becoming “more like us,” they need a deeper understanding of China, and not one just rooted in hostility and militarism.

Tim: In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova.

Kaiser: River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay