Succession politics in China has long been a dangerous business and with former president Jiang Zemin in deteriorating health, China watchers are asking how his death could alter the next handover of power in 2012.
The likely answer is very little.
President Hu Jintao is preparing to retire and hand over the top job in the Communist Party to vice president Xi Jinping next autumn, and the presidency in 2013.
But compared with the chaotic days of Mao Zedong, China's leadership transitions are now much more orderly. Jiang himself set the precedent of adhering to the retirement age when he stepped down first as Party chief and then as president, in 2002 and 2003 respectively, taking several aging leaders with him.
Barring a spectacular misstep, or mishap, Xi will become party chief as expected in 2012, whether or not Jiang survives.
"Hu Jintao is happy and willing to install Xi as the next top leader and Xi has not been close to Jiang's people. The challenge will be whether Xi has built a strong enough network in the past three years," said Wang Zhengxu, senior research fellow at Nottingham University's China Policy Institute in Britain.
China was forced to deny reports in the overseas media that Jiang had died. When Jiang retired, it was said that everywhere Hu looked he would see the supporters of his predecessor.