Airbus believes re-engining the A320 will keep potential competitors in check by maintaining a cutting edge while allowing the airframer to pour saved development capital into differentiating technology instead.
Speaking during an event in Toulouse this week, Airbus executive vice-president of strategy and future programmes Christian Scherer said the decision to develop the A320neo - and Boeing's opting for the 737 Max - was "driven somewhat" by the emergence of the Comac C919 and Irkut MS-21.
Scherer says these programmes are wholly funded by "very deep pockets indeed", but points out that they are effectively A320 imitators and claims: "None of these new players is bringing anything new to the party."
He says that, with the A320neo, Airbus has "put the established aircraft at the highest technological standard" and says that, for the next 10-15 years, "we know there will be no new players in this industry, because everybody's declared themselves".
Instead of spending a large sum to develop an entirely new narrowbodies, he says, both Airbus and Boeing have saved billions of dollars that "can pay for innovation that will set us apart afterwards" - innovation, he adds, which will emerge before the new rivals have matured.