Wang Zhaoguo may have proved his political ability in pushing Wal-Mart, the US retail giant that does not recognise organised labour, to unionise its mainland stores.
But it took more than astuteness for the once-hottest leadership candidate to return to the top after years in less important positions.
The 66-year-old vice-chairman of the National People's Congress and the president of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions has been a member of the Politburo for five years.
But his career breakthrough came much earlier when, in 1982 and aged just 41, he stunned many political pundits by rising from deputy director of a car factory to the privileged Central Committee.
The Hebei native was promoted by Deng Xiaoping after he visited the Second Automotive Works, where Mr Wang worked, in 1980. His refusal to denounce Deng during the Cultural Revolution apparently impressed the paramount leader and won him a transfer to Beijing.
In just two years, he was appointed the first secretary of the Communist Youth League Central Committee's secretariat and president of the youth league's Central Committee school. During this period, President Hu Jintao was his deputy.
Between 1984 and 1985, when Mr Wang was the director of the party's Central Committee General Office, Premier Wen Jiabao was his second in command.
He was then promoted to membership of the secretariat of the Communist Party's Central Committee, a 'party leadership' position.
But with all eyes on him, Mr Wang tripped up in 1987 with a blunt criticism of his mentor, Hu Yaobang, then the party chairman. He was demoted to deputy secretary of the party's Fujian committee and later became the province's governor.
Mr Wang was returned to Beijing in 1990 but in less important positions. In 2002, when Mr Hu and Mr Wen took power, he moved back into the fold with his appointment as a member of the Politburo.
Later, as NPC vice-chairman, he was a key figure in presenting controversial bills, including anti-secession legislation and the Property Law.