Wang studied philosophy in the late 1940s, converting to Marxism and joining the Chinese Communist Party prior to the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Joining the staff of People's Daily, he became editor of its theory section.
In the 1950s, Wang was a devotee of Maoism and took part in ideological campaigns targeting the previously popular ideas of Hu Shi, Liang Shuming and Hu Feng. He wrote an article entitled "Philosophy of the Table" which defended Mao's version of dialectical materialism, winning praise from Mao himself.
Prior to the Cultural Revolution, at the height of the Sino-Soviet split Wang was recruited by Maoist literary henchman Zhou Yang to a group he was organizing to research and criticize the Marxist humanism which was then influential in the Eastern bloc, exemplified by (among others) György Lukács in Hungary.
Soon after the downfall of the Maoists in the later 1970s, Wang revealed that these much reviled "revisionist" doctrines had had a great impact on him, and had provided a lens through which he could understand and condemn the Cultural Revolution and the cult of Mao himself.
Wang was expelled from the Communist party in 1987 as a part of a campaign against "bourgeois liberalization". He continued to write trenchant criticisms of the regime, and conduct polemics against Mao's former secretary Hu Qiaomu (1912-1993), a doctrinaire Marxist who had been behind his expulsion from the Party.
- David Kelly, ‘The Emergence of Socialist Humanism in China: Wang Ruoshui and the Critique of Socialist Alienation,’ in Merle Goldman, Timothy Cheek and Carol Lee Hamrin, eds, China’s Intellectuals and the State, Harvard University Press, 1987, pp. 159–182.
- David Kelly, translator and editor, ‘Writings of Wang Ruoshui on Philosophy, Humanism and Alienation,’ Chinese Studies in Philosophy: 16 (3), Spring 1985, pp. 1–120;
- de Bary, Wm. Theodore, ed. Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume II (Second Edition) New York: Columbia, 2000.