Wang Yongzhi graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1961, where he was a protégé of Vasiliy Mishin. His thesis was on intercontinental missile design. Wang met the expectations of Mishin when he later became chief designer for several Chinese launch vehicles and ballistic missiles. In 1992 he was named Chief Designer for the Project 921, Chinese Manned Spaceflight program. He was responsible for giving his country a complete manned spaceflight capability, including not only the Shenzhou spacecraft, but the CZ-2F booster, new launch facilities at Jiuquan, new testing, training, and control facilities, and a worldwide tracking and recovery network.
Wang was recognised with a State Prize in 2003. His wife works in the aerospace information technology sector, and he was said to be a big basketball fan.