The Chinese Communist Party’s new Politburo was revealed on Sunday, during what is basically China’s political Super Bowl (but held only every five years, and with more purges): the Party Congress. You can read any number of news sites for much more coverage on that, including how Xi Jinping has won a sweeping victory, eliminated all his factional rivals, and established his total control over China. Or how, as a condensed symbol of Xi’s total dominance, his predecessor Hu Jintao was unceremoniously lifted from his seat and humiliatingly marched from the Great Hall just before the big announcement.
But for my part I was watching mainly for one thing in particular: the fate of China’s Machiavellian mastermind behind the curtain, Wang Huning. For months I was assured by many experienced China watchers whom I respect that the Chinese Rasputin was done for: he was ready to retire; he had lost his influence; Xi wanted him out of the way to appoint a new and younger model; his signature idea of “Common Prosperity” had been discredited and sidelined, etc.
Well, oh ho ho, now we know: many have fallen, but the Wang remains! And Common Prosperity is back too. So I feel justified in taking a quick victory lap and suggesting that you read or reread my essay from almost precisely a year ago on Wang Huning, The Most Interesting Apparatchik in the World.
More seriously, I firmly believe that understanding Wang’s ideas is central to understanding the direction of China today. This has only been emphasized not only by Wang’s political survival, but by Xi’s speech (or rather his “work report”) delivered at the Party Congress, which was filled with Wang’s personal touches, such as the frequent exhortations to combine the “truth” of Marxism with Chinese traditional culture to create a new ideological basis for Chinese civilization.
More broadly, the speech pointed to a truth that I think is important for the world to understand: Xi and Wang see a totally different threat dominating the world today than the West does. To them the “Liberal International Order” isn’t a source of order or prosperity, but something to be survived. They really, really don’t want China to become like the West. (Which will be very difficult, since in today’s world Americanizing neoliberal influence comes attached to every barrel of imported oil, every baleful byte of data, and probably every molecule of breathable air… not even China’s precious bodily fluids are likely to be safe! In fact it’s probably entirely too late.) But they are now willing to do whatever it takes, even sacrifice continued economic growth, in an effort to wall off and secure China and their regime against the power of that influence.
That’s a bet that might not pay off, but they are dead-set on making it – and it will determine the course of the world for the decade ahead. So study the thoughts of Wang Huning, and ye shall know!
 Notably, when retiring Standing Committee member Li Zhanshu, sitting next to Hu, tried to stand up to help him (or something), it was Wang Huning who immediately pulled Li back into his seat, as if to say, “sit down and stfu you ignoramus, before you ruin our plot!”
 Ok, maybe only to me…
 More on this another time.