Think-tank veteran Wang Huning to retain influence

Wang Huning

At first glance, Wang Huning is the biggest loser as the only Politburo member without a portfolio.

But the former academic will still be an influential figure as director of the Central Policy Research Office, a think tank he has headed for more than a decade.

The former professor of politics and international relations had been rumoured to be in line for a senior job in government, as either a vice-premier or state councillor overseeing China's diplomacy.

In the past 18 years, since he joined the office as head of its politics team, Wang has helped develop many policies for former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao .

He has also played a major role in crafting China's diplomatic strategy and foreign policy.

Some analysts say Wang has been playing multiple roles, equivalent to a combination of national security adviser, White House chief speech writer and other key advisory roles in the United States.

"He will continue to play such multiple roles from behind the scenes, with his deep academic background in political science and deep understanding of US- and Western-style politics," said Jin Canrong , Wang's former classmate and associate dean of Renmin University's school of international relations.

In domestic politics, Wang played an important role in crafting Jiang's "theory of the three represents" as well as Hu's "scientific theory of development", both of which have been written into the party's constitution.

Wang was seen as a trusted aide of Jiang and a member of Jiang's "Shanghai Gang", but when Jiang ceded leadership to Hu, Wang managed to become a driving force behind Hu's policies as well - a miraculous political feat given the competition for power between the two leaders over the past decade. Jin said Wang would help new President Xi Jinping craft major policies and write his speeches. Wang, 57, travelled extensively with Jiang and in recent years was with Hu on nearly all his trips abroad. Since November, he has played a similar role for Xi, appearing at his side on almost all domestic trips.

In the foreign affairs area, Wang will serve as top adviser to Xi and the whole leadership team, ranking above the two-tier foreign affairs establishment led by newly-promoted State Councillor Yang Jiechi and new Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

As a specialist in international politics, Wang visited the US in the 1980s and captured what he saw in a 1991 book America against America.

China has not had a Politburo-level official in charge of foreign policy for a decade, meaning that Wang can now act in that role as the only foreign affairs expert with a seat on the party's decision-making body.

Born in Shanghai in 1956, Wang enrolled in the department of international politics at Fudan University in 1978. He became a professor after graduation and spent time as a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1980s.

He was appointed dean of the international politics department at Fudan University in 1989.

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition on Mar 17, 2013 as Think-tanker has influence despite lack of portfolio


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