MERICS report Shaky China visual
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Shaky China: Five scenarios for Xi Jinping's third term

In March 2023, Xi Jinping sealed a third term in power heading both the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese state. In “Xi III”, China is entering a phase of increasing uncertainty. Whatever path China takes will have serious implications for its own people and the rest of the world. This study lays out five scenarios for China’s path over the coming years to help formulate strategic responses. 

You can read the report online via the table of contents below or download it as a PDF:

Executive summary

The baseline scenario of the report is a “Shaky China”. In this  unstable "status quo" scenario, China’s economy, politics and engagement with the world follow the trends seen at the outset of Xi’s third term in office: the centralization of power, slower growth and external pressure. Read more


Whether this less stable and less predictable China becomes the “new normal”, or whether the country experiences more radical shifts, will depend on developments in different political, economic and technological arenas. Read more

Scenario methodology

The scenarios described in this study were developed at MERICS in 2022, with methodological guidance from the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI). They identify key factors, analyze their interactions and seek to create plausible, coherent pictures of the future. Read more

Scenario descriptions

European policy makers and private businesses alike need to understand the realities of a more “Shaky China” and the possibility of a shift into more extreme scenarios. The other scenarios outlined in the report are "Confrontational China", "Successful China", "Restrained China" and "Reform China". Read more

Political and social factors

China-US relations, its role in blocs and coalitions, political system and Cross-strait relations are among the factors examined in the report. Read more

Economic and technological factors

The authors also discuss how China’s economic governance model, its role in the global economy, innovation capacity and other economic and technological factors might shape its future path. Read more

Lead author Bernhard Bartsch discusses the main findings from the report in a podcast with MERICS Director Communications and Publications Claudia Wessling:  




This report is the result of an extensive scenario process conducted at MERICS in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (Fraunhofer ISI). A large number of MERICS experts participated in a series of workshops, provided their expertise and ideas and contributed to the documentation and analysis.

Editor: Bernhard Bartsch

Leading contributors: Mikko Huotari, Antonia Hmaidi, Vincent Brussee, François Chimits, Katja Drinhausen, Nis Grünberg, Jacob Gunter, Helena Legarda, Grzegorz Stec

Experts: Aya Adachi, Rebecca Arcesati, Alexander Brown, Alexander Davey, Francesca Ghiretti, Johannes Kast, Christine Krüger, Lisa Kuke, Michael Laha, Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau, Hanns Maull, Clara Nonnenkamp, Barbara Pongratz, Gregor Sebastian, Valarie Tan, Kai von Carnap, Jan Weidenfeld, Claudia Wessling, Max J. Zenglein

Fraunhofer ISI: Elna Schirrmeister, Philine Warnke

Editorial team: Claudia Wessling, Hannah Seidl, Mary Hennock

Layout, graphics and illustrations: FOERM - Design Studio (

This study was supported by a Ford Foundation grant and is licensed to the public subject to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.