Variable 2: What is the changing composition of the politburo?

This subject would be best discussed by a proper “China watcher”, vice me. But… let me make a few observations on this. Politburo’s in the Soviet Union and in Red China have traditionally, but not always, been subservient to the leading political figure of the day. This leading figure is usually the Chairman of the communist party, although during the time of Deng Xiaopiing, he was the leading figure even though his official role was the Chairman of the Central Military Commission until 9 November 1989. While he held no official office after that he clearly was still considered the “paramount leader” and was still the senior leader in China up until his death in 1997 at the age of 92. Still, politburo’s sometimes have a significant role. The next leader invariably comes from it, and they are involved to some extent in choosing the next leader. The nature of the politburo does matter as they often reign in leadership and sometimes even try to overthrow leadership. So usually their operations are low-key and behind the scenes, until such time as they are not.

The current politburo of Chinese Communist Party consists of 25 people. But the power of the politburo has been further centralized in the Politburo Standing Committee of seven members. They are Xi Jinping (President of PRC and General Secretary CCP, aged 67), Li Keqiang (Premier, aged 65), Li Zhanshu (Chairman of National People’s Congress, aged 70), Wang Yang (Chairman of Political Consultative Conference, aged 66), Wang Huning (First Secretary CCP, aged 65), Zhao Leji (Chairman Dicipline Inspection, aged 64) and Han Zheng (Vice Premier, aged 67).

This is a pretty homogenous crowd, all aged between 64 and 70. Mostly likely, as Xi Jinping ages and retires, none of these people are going to be his long-term replacement. Over the next decade or two there will a rising generations of new leaders pulled up into the politburo. So the generational replacement for Xi Jinping is not in place yet, or at least he/she is not currently sitting on the Politburo Standing Committee.

This, of course, just reinforces my impression that the Politburo and therefore the leadership of China will be fairly cautious and deliberate for the next decade and perhaps for the next two decades. Potentially adventurous and risk-taking leaders are currently not in place, and they can only rise to the top as positions are opened. This may take a while.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
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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