As commander of the 8341 Special Regiment, Mao's personal elite bodyguard force, but was dismissed by Chairman Mao for excessive protection, and sent to a labor reform camp. He later was reinstated. Wang was instrumental in the coup d'état against the Gang of Four immediately after Mao's death. He was prominent under Chairman Hua Guofeng, being Party Vice Chairman and one of the five members of the Politburo Standing Committee, a committee whose membership varies between 5 and 11 and includes the top leadership of the Communist Party of China.
He lost power as Deng Xiaoping rose to supreme power and was deprived of all his posts in the early 1980s. As a gesture both to his role in the coup d’etat and to signal that political foes would no longer be persecuted, Wang was elected to the very last alternate position of the CPC Central Committee at the 12th National Congress in 1982.