By ERICA RAWLES ——
“House of Cards” writer Kenneth Lin did not know China’s top leaders were watching the popular U.S. television series when he included China-U.S. relations in the script, but the second most powerful – and once most-feared – man in China claimed that he followed the show.
Wang could no doubt identify with the show’s main character, with whom he was apparently enthralled for the character’s use of “discipline” and power, Wang said in an interview with Hong Kong Magazine, Phoenix Weekly.
As head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Wang spearheaded President Xi Jinping’s vigorous anti-corruption campaign.
“Our current task is to alleviate the symptoms [of corruption] in order to give us time to eventually cure the underlying disease,” Wang said in a speech in 2013 on the CCDI’s anti-corruption crackdown.
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Although technically the sixth-ranked member of the China’s Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, Wang was Xi’s right-hand man, and arguably the second most powerful man in China.
Wang was born in Qingdao, Shandong province, in July 1948, according to the South China Morning Post.
He was sent to the Fengzhuang People’s Commune in Yan’an County, Shaanxi Province during the Cultural Revolution in 1969. There, he met his wife, daughter of prominent Chinese politician and former Vice Premier Yao Yilin, as well as Xi, the future president of China.
He worked at the Shaanxi Provincial Museum from 1971-1973, in later became director of China Construction Bank in the 1990s and helped found the China International Capital Corporation, China’s most important investment banking firm.
His father-in-law helped propel his political career and Wang became the mayor of Beijing in 2003, during the city’s outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, a viral respiratory disease.
Wang was commonly called “the fireman” for his ability to handle emergencies and in 2008, he joined the Politburo as vice premier of the economy and energy during the global financial crisis.
In 2012, he was appointed secretary of the CCDI, leading the extralegal investigation system, known as “shuanggui,” to detain and interrogate officials for corruption.
At least 182,000 members of the Communist Party were investigated during his second year as secretary of the CCDI in 2013 alone, according to Peking University law professor, Jiang Ming’an.
Seventy officials have committed suicide or died in custody after undergoing investigation by the CCDI since Wang became head of the committee, according to the Financial Times.
Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson worked alongside Wang during the global financial crisis. “He is an avid historian, enjoys philosophical debates and has a wicked sense of humor,” Paulson wrote in Time Magazine in 2009. “He is bold – he takes on challenges, does things that have never been done before and succeeds.”
The CCDI uses severe measures including torture to get confessions and information on corrupt officials, according to numerous accounts. As of 2016, more than one-third of provinces had senior officials removed due to corruption charges, according to The Economist.
Wang’s three-stage plan of eliminating corruption began first with fear, followed by enforcing the rule of law, and finally changing China’s political culture to prevent the selection of corrupt officials entirely.
Chinese officials said they “would rather see the devil” than face anti-corruption czar Wang, according to The Economist.
“Punishment works better than words,” said Wang in a meeting prepping for a CCDI conference with Party leaders. “The strength of our anti-corruption efforts will not be lessened.”
(By Erica Rawles; Nov. 10, 2016)