Steve Bannon may no longer be Donald Trump’s “brain,” but his apparent counterpart in the People’s Republic of China remains by Xi Jinping’s side — likely for much longer.
He is 62-year-old Wang Huning, a quiet political theorist who now enjoys one of the seven seats in the government’s Politburo Standing Committee.
Prior to winning a seat, Wang has always been known as the intellectual force behind the ideologies championed by China’s last three presidents: Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents,” Hu Jintao’s “scientific development” and Xi’s “Chinese dream.”
He has written on subjects pivotal to the country’s future, including anti-corruption, national sovereignty and environmental challenges.
He also supports neo-authoritarianism, which argues that modernization is only possible under authoritarian rule, as defined by scholars Mark P. Petracca and Mong Xiong. This doctrine, highly debated by Chinese scholars in the 1980s, resurfaced since Xi became the leader of the Communist Party in 2012, according to political scientist He Li.
As Nathan Gardels, editor-in-chief of The WorldPost (via SCMP), who has met Wang, stated:
“He is suspicious of democracy because, as he puts it, it is like shareholders in a company; in theory, every shareholder has a voice; in reality only those of the largest minority share do. Still, the main thing about him is that he has been pushing the ‘neo-authoritarian Confucian tradition of Chinese politics’ view and found a good receptacle in Xi.”
Wang’s musings, however, are not limited to China. He has also dabbled in Western thought, as showcased in his books “America Against America” and “Analysis of Modern Western Politics.” The former, in particular, is a 400-page memoir that sought to compare China’s imagined America from the actual America he saw after traveling in 1988, Quartz said.
In an insight via The South China Morning Post, Tom Plate, professor at Loyola Marymount University, had the idea that Wang as an “anti-American” — is both a yes and no, noting that the official rates the American system “less warmly now than in the past.”
In terms of governance, Wang particularly detested “grafting” Western-style democracy onto the Chinese system, arguing that democratization should not overstep the country’s developmental level, or ba miao zhu zhang. This Chinese proverb means to “help a seedling grow taller by pulling it out of its soil,” Griffith University scholar Yi Wang noted via The Washington Post.
Wang’s fate in Xi’s second term looks bright, and at the rate of his influence, his name can only be more profound. He theorizes that other races would soon challenge American primacy and that its system based on democracy might only be in trouble.
Xi’s assertions that China should take the world’s “center stage” and that its development model is a “new choice for other countries” are starting points. As The Economist tipped:
“That is Wang-think. Don’t say you were never warned.”
What do you think of Wang Huning?
Photos via Xinhua