A great long read on Wang Huning, China’s éminence grise, the thinker behind much of “Xi Jinping thought”, and a political animal of unparalleled cunning who has managed to remain in a position of unrivalled influence for longer than anyone else in China.

Interestingly, Wang’s ideas were particularly shaped by a stint in the US:

“Also in 1988, Wang – having risen with unprecedented speed to become Fudan’s youngest full professor at age 30 – won a coveted scholarship (facilitated by the American Political Science Association) to spend six months in the United States as a visiting scholar. Profoundly curious about America, Wang took full advantage, wandering about the country like a sort of latter-day Chinese Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting more than 30 cities and nearly 20 universities.

“What he found deeply disturbed him, permanently shifting his view of the West and the consequences of its ideas.

“Wang recorded his observations in a memoir that would become his most famous work: the 1991 book America Against America. In it, he marvels at homeless encampments in the streets of Washington DC, out-of-control drug crime in poor black neighbourhoods in New York and San Francisco, and corporations that seemed to have fused themselves to and taken over responsibilities of government. Eventually, he concludes that America faces an “unstoppable undercurrent of crisis” produced by its societal contradictions, including between rich and poor, white and black, democratic and oligarchic power, egalitarianism and class privilege, individual rights and collective responsibilities, cultural traditions and the solvent of liquid modernity.”