Variable 1: Who is the leader of China?

This is a pretty straightforward discussion. Xi Jinping is 67 years old. It is not unusual for leaders to remain in power in dictatorships until they are well into the 80s. It is also possible that leaders in China can retire (it has happened recently). So, the four options are:

  1. Xi Jinping remains in power for the next 20 years.
  2. Xi Jinping is retired after 10-15 years (or sooner).
  3. Xi Jinping is marginalized or replaced (this does not look likely now, but could happen a decade from now, although still not likely).
  4. Xi Jinping could be gone from power tomorrow due to health reasons.

As outlined in a previous post, there are lots of reasons to believe nothing significant will happen in Taiwan as long as Xi Jinping remains in power. See: Will China take the risk and actually invade Taiwan? | Mystics & Statistics (

So, the question is, will he be gone from power anytime soon (probably not likely) and if he is gone from power, then who will replace him. Lets say he is gone from power in the next 10 to 15 years. Then, what we are looking at:

  1. He is replaced by another cautious and deliberate Chinese leader, which means Taiwan will not be on the front burner (i.e. more of the same).
  2. He is replaced by a leader that actually just doesn’t care much that Taiwan is an independent entity (after all this is an issue that now dates back over 70 years).
  3. He is replace by more adventurous, nationalistic, risk-taking or radical leader who is willing to take on such an invasion and the politburo is willing to go along.
  4. He is replaced by a more adventurous, nationalistic, risk-taking or radical leader who is willing to take on such an invasion and the politburo is not willing to go along.
  5. The politburo is packed with people more adventurous, nationalistic, risk-taking or radical and will push the leadership (who may not be able to say no) into such an effort.

It is pretty hard to determine what are the odds of this, but we will probably be staring at a leadership change in the next 15 to 20 years. I am no China expert, but my sense that there is at least a 50/50 chance that Xi Jinping will be replace by someone similar, or option 1 above. There is also at least a 50/50 chance that the politburo will remain cautious. They may serve to reign in a more adventurous leader. I think the odds of getting a risk-taking adventurous leader who has the backing from an acquiescent or supportive politburo is probably less than 25%. Again, I am no China expert and there is really no way to estimate the odds. This is a “guesstimate” shall we say.

On the other hand, a useful survey would be to examine what percent of Sovietologists who predicted that someone like Khrushchev would replace Stalin and heavily reform the Stalinist state? Also what percent of Sovietologists predicted the Brezhnev would replace Khrushchev and the reforms of Khrushchev would be reeled in? What percent of Sovietologists predicted that Gorbachev would rise to power and so radically change the Soviet state that it would collapse? I have never seen such a survey done, but I think I know generally what is the answer to this.

But based upon the patterns we have seen in Chinese leadership and the politburo, most likely nothing will significantly change in the next 20 years. On the other hand, it can…..

This leads us to Variable 2: What is the changing composition of the politburo?

This entry was posted in China, National Security Policy, Net Assessment by Christopher A. Lawrence. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience. ... Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation. ... His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024). ... Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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