After finishing his junior high school study in Padang he moved to Jakarta to enter the Jesuit Kanisius High School. Later, he entered the Faculty of Law of Universitas Indonesia and graduated in 1960. He also took part in the Catholic leadership course taught by father Joop Beek.
Shortly after finishing his high school studies he taught in his own alma mater, Kanisius High School for time. He later became an lecturer assistant at the University of Indonesia before becoming increasingly involved in political activities during the 1960s.
Wanandi was a leading student activist during the 1965-66 in Indonesia when, over time, president Sukarno was removed from power and Soeharto became the second president of Indonesia. Later, in 1971, he was one of the founders of the well-known Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in Jakarta and has continued to be active in the affairs of CSIS until the present. During the 1970s and 1980s he was an adviser to president Soeharto on political and international affairs although, towards the end of the 1980s, Soeharto became less interested in receiving advice from Wanandi and other specialists in the CSIS.
He also had a political career in Golongan Karya (Golkar Party). He held the position of vice general secretary.
He was elected as co-chair of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) in 2008.
- Wanandi has written an informative and fast-moving autobiography of his political activities during the Soeharto era published in July 2012. It is Jusuf Wanandi, Shades of grey: a political memoir of modern Indonesia 1965-1998, Equinox Publishing, Singapore, 2012.
- Jusuf Wanandi TokohIndonesia.com (in Indonesian)
- Jusuf Wanandi, Shades of Grey: A Political Memoir of Modern Indonesia 1965-1998, Equinox publishing, Singapore, 2012, 295pp.
- Such as Jusuf Wanandi, 'In Memoriam: Ambassador Nubuo Matsunaga', and 'In Memoriam: Uncle Liem Sioe Liong', The Jakarta Post, 15 June 2012.
- See the review at Endy M. Bayuni, 'Behind Indonesia's power struggles', The Jakarta Post, 22 July 2012.