In late October, current President and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, was elected to serve a second five year term. Endorsed by a closed-door Politburo vote, Jinping will serve again alongside Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
In addition to maintaining his position, Jinping gained symbolic headway in fusing his philosophy with that of the party. At the Communist Party Congress, the expansive and autocratic-leaning directions of Jinping were permanently stamped into the catalogue of ideas upon which the party rules from. Xinping’s report “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” was formally placed into the constitution, leaving Jinping as the first leader since Mao Zedong to be formally named while living. This essentially enshrines Jinping’s philosophy for China as a part of state dogma, giving him a new level authority.
Behind the pomp, international focus, and expanding executive power surrounding Jinping is another man, one who has been largely invisible in the workings of the party, but one who may have had more influence over Jinping’s ideas and rise to power than any other. Wang Huning, the former academic, keen critic of capitalism, and brilliant strategist is almost definitely the most influential advisor to China’s current premier. He holds the ideas which led Jinping to success and will shape the future path of China. After being promoted to the Standing Politburo Committee, Huning is now one of the seven individuals that control the entire sprawling apparatus of the Chinese Communist Party. Similar to the situation of former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon earlier this year, Huning holds the ear of the President, and a growing number of his more radically autocratic ideas have been merging with Jinping’s rhetoric and action.
Since the mid-80’s, when China burst into the global market, Huning’s ideas for the future for China have focused on bringing, arguably, the second-largest power into the center of the world stage, ending the age of so-called “foreign humiliation.” Huning’s plans are rooted in a strong authoritarian state with tight control over society and markets, followed by an expansion militarily and commercially. Huning argues that an intelligent but firm autocratic rule could help push China to a state of complete modernization before a possible switch to a more democratic system.
Huning has existed as a strategist in the last three administrations, yet, in Jinping he has found a perfect match. Unsurprisingly, Jinping’s ideas and strategies have almost wholly mirrored that of Huning. Jinping has taken more control over the party than any other leader before him, (barr Mao) he has launched a sweeping anti-corruption campaign, established an overseas base in Djibouti, offensively fortified islands in the South China Sea, increased internet censorship to reduce the frequency of “erroneous viewpoints,” and established plans for an enormous commercial and infrastructure project in the Belt and Road Initiative. The majority of Jinping’s accomplishments and plans can be directly attributed to the theories of Huning. Less discussed by the international community, Huning is seen by many as the domineering devil on Jinping’s shoulder who will influence the course of China more than any other.
In China, East Asia, and increasingly across the globe, Jinping represents a now strong China which has risen to true superpower status; a rival to the United States not only in manufacturing and energy, but in almost every way. The steps toward modernization and dominance that China has made are attributed to Xi Jinping, yet many forget to recognize the true brains behind his ideology, Wang Huning. The future of China is growth, regional domination, and global competition, but for Jinping and Huning’s dream of a globally commanding China to truly manifest, the two will have to avoid a clash over what to do with the privatization of the economy as China modernizes and joins the global economy more and more.