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China's Crown Theorist

The Rise of Wang Huning

Wang Huning at a tribute ceremony in Tiananmen Square, September 2017. Jason Lee / Reuters

When, on October 25, 2017, seven men in black suits filed on stage in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to announce themselves as members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s Politburo Standing Committee, only one face came as a surprise. It was that of Wang Huning, a longtime party ideologist and former professor of international politics at Fudan University in Shanghai. Few had predicted Wang’s rise to the highest ranks of the CCP, but now this once-reclusive academic, known for his quietness and caution, will have ideological authority second only to that of President Xi Jinping himself. 

Wang’s inclusion in the standing committee was a striking departure from the practice of recent decades. Standing committee members have traditionally been chosen from among prominent Politburo members with experience of serving as the party secretary of multiple provinces or province-level cities. Wang, however, came from the party’s Central

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