Wang Yang is a rarity among his generation of up-and-coming Chinese leaders: He never finished high school and went to work in a factory when he was 17 to help his widowed mother make ends meet.
But he won praise for his low-key efficiency as he moved up the Communist Party ladder in a series of local, provincial, and then national level posts.
There, he has sought to replace sweatshops with high-end, value-added industries, advocated “thought emancipation,” ordered the provincial capital to make its budget public, and generally come across as an open-minded economic and political reformer.
While the man once seen as his main rival, Bo Xilai, has suddenly fallen from political grace, Wang passed his most recent test with flying colors. After 13 days of a tense standoff between the authorities and the villagers of Wukan, in Guangdong Province, who had thrown their corrupt party officials out of the village, Wang refrained from using force to end the crisis and instead defused it by acknowledging that the villagers might have a case.