Long before he climbed his way into the Politburo Standing Committee, years before newspapers called him the “crown theorist” and “éminence grise” of China’s central leadership, Wang Huning was a young political scientist eager to learn everything he possibly could about the world outside of China.1 At age 30 he was handed an associate professorship at Fudan University, becoming the youngest professor in the university’s history. As a specialist in Western political philosophy at a time when Chinese political leaders were reevaluating China’s Maoist heritage, the young academic seemed to represent the future of Chinese political science. It was on these terms the American Political Science Association invited Wang on a six-month visit to the United States.2
While given a formal position as a visiting scholar at the University of Iowa, Wang spent half of his 1988 trip traveling across the Uniting States. Wang would travel to over 30 cities and 20 universities during his stay. Wang’s curiosity was omnivorous. With equal interest he visited both MIT and the Iowa City public library, interviewed both congressmen and farmhands, and toured both blue-chip corporate headquarters and remote Amish townships. Wherever he journeyed, Wang talked with the Americans he met about the topics that animated them most. Thus Wang learned a great deal about both the 1988 presidential race and the 1988 University of Iowa football season (“in the United States,” Wang recalls, “one who does not know how to converse about football will rarely be conversing naturally at all”).3
Wang titled his account of his sojourn in the United States America Against America. Part travelogue, part philosophical meditation, America Against America was published before Wang entered the world of Chinese high politics. It thus provides a refreshingly honest look at the ideas and ideals of one of the most influential men in China.
Though Wang does not shy from criticizing his host country, he is no polemicist. Wang visited America when China was still poor, its history of mass violence was still fresh, and its future deeply uncertain. He deeply admires the widespread prosperity and political stability he found in the United States. He hopes China may gain from America’s example. This concern ties together the colorful anecdotes and meditative asides that fill America Against America’s pages. Wang constantly asks which aspects of American life are accidental byproducts of America’s unique history and geography, and which illustrate more general political or social principles which might hold true outside of an American context.
America Against America poses many questions but provides few conclusive answers. Three overarching questions seemed to haunt Wang on his journey across the United States, each resurfacing at multiple points in his narrative: First, how do the Americans maintain order over such a large and diverse society without relying on violence or falling victim to over-centralized control? Second, is it possible for individuals, sub-cultures, or entire countries to join the capitalist world order without having their culture subsumed by the homogenizing forces of the marketplace? Finally, what is the source of America’s technological might? Of all the nations on this earth, why is it always Americans who are dragging mankind on to new technological frontiers?
This last theme is the subject of the excerpts of America Against America translated by the Center for Strategic Translation. Each of these passages investigates the unparalleled technological dynamism of the American people and considers what lessons might be drawn from the American experience. In the translations published below you will find Wang’s first encounters with American technology, his argument that scientific progress defines the American character, his observations on the technological foundations of national power, and his reflections on what developing nations must learn from the education of American scientists and engineers:
From Chapter I: “Uncertainty Created By America.”
From Chapter III: “Departure From Convention" and "The World of the Future.”
From Chapter IX: “The Furnace of Technology.” [To be published].
 Ryan Mitchell, “China's Crown Theorist,” Foreign Affairs, 4 December 2017; N.S. Lyons, “The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning,” Palladium, 11 November 2021.
 Haig Patapan and Yi Wang, “The Hidden Ruler: Wang Huning and the Making of Contemporary China,” Journal of Contemporary China 27, no. 109 (January 2, 2018): 47–60.
 In the original Chinese, this is “祁檔球是美國的國球,在美國談話,不會談橄視球, 大多數場合會話不投機.”
Wang Huning 王沪宁, Meiguo Fandui Meiguo 美国反对美国 [America Against America] (Shanghai: Shanghai Wenyi Chuban She 上海文艺出版社 [Shanghai Humanities Publishing Co.], 1991), 303.