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Wang Huning

The shadowy power behind Xi Jinping

Wang Huning, right, with Xi Jinping in 2015. Feng Li/Getty Images

The real brain behind the Chinese Communist Party isn’t President Xi Jinping, says NS Lyons in the investigative magazine Palladium – it’s Wang Huning. The “soft-spoken, bespectacled political theorist” is a member of the CCP’s seven-man politburo and the “ideas man” driving Xi’s policy agenda, but he “prefers the shadows to the limelight”.

An insomniac and workaholic, the 66-year-old has served as “court philosopher” to three Chinese leaders, which shows “impeccable political cunning” in the cut-throat world of CCP factional politics. Many of his former colleagues from the Jiang Zemin era were purged by Xi and ended up in prison.

Wang was a “sickly, bookish youth” from a revolutionary family. Exempted from hard labour during the Cultural Revolution, he read forbidden French literature at an elite school near Shanghai. He became Fudan University’s youngest professor at the age of 30 and won a scholarship to visit the US.

Wang wandered around America in 1988 like a “latter-day Chinese Alexis de Tocqueville”, visiting more than 30 cities and nearly 20 universities. He was “deeply disturbed” by the levels of poverty, drug crime and inequality he saw – having once been idealistic about America, he returned home a staunch opponent of liberalism.

Out-of-print copies of his book America Against America, written during his time there, sold for up to $2,500 in China when a mob stormed the US Capitol in January, says Bloomberg. Wang divorced his first wife, international relations expert Zhou Qui, in 1996; his Wikipedia entry says he is now married to a nurse, with whom he has one child.