Western media descriptions of Mr Wu, 49, often begin with his marriage to a granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, the architect of modern China.
Wu was not born into the political elite. Instead, according to local media accounts and insurance industry experts, he used his intelligence, good looks and business savvy to attract powerful patrons to fund a financial empire modelled on Warren Buffett.
Wu grew up in rural Pingyang county on the outskirts of Wenzhou, the famously entrepreneurial city in eastern Zhejiang province, according to the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekend.
He served as a low-level bureaucrat in county government before heading to Wenzhou city where he initially drifted, working briefly as a purchasing manager for a restaurant.
While in Wenzhou, Mr Wu met the daughter of a powerful family, surnamed Lu, whose father had been vice governor of Zhejiang, according to financial magazine Caixin. Ms Lu became Mr Wu’s second wife.
His ascent in business began around the same time. In 1996 he launched an auto dealership licensed by SAIC Motors, China’s largest domestic automaker, which also has joint ventures with Volkswagen and General Motors. His company quickly became one of SAIC’s biggest sellers. Eight years later SAIC became one of the founding shareholders of Anbang, along with state-owned oil refiner Sinopec.
Anbang was launched in 2004 with only Rmb500m in registered capital and its headquarters in Ningbo, another city in Zhejiang where Southern Weekend says Mr Wu had family roots.
Wu’s marriage to Ms Lu also ended in 2004, and he married Deng’s granddaughter, whom Caixin has identified as named Zhuo Lian. Southern Weekend quoted an unnamed local official in Mr Wu’s home town saying that officials from Beijing came to Pingyang county to investigate Mr Wu’s background in advance of the marriage.