Months of sharp behind-the-scenes jostling will reach a climax with the announcement of a new Chinese leadership that almost regardless of its make-up is likely to be much like the one it replaces: divided, deliberative and weak.
All but officially announced, Xi Jinping is expected to head the new leadership as Communist Party chief, joined by Li Keqiang, the presumptive prime minster, in a choreographed succession that began five years ago when the two were anointed as successors.
Alongside them at the apex of power, the Politburo Standing Committee, will be a handful of senior politicians drawn from top positions in the provinces and bureaucracies.
Their ascent was nudged along Wednesday when a week-long party congress closed by naming Mr Xi, Mr Li and the other leading candidates to the Central Committee, a 205-member body which appoints the new leadership on Thursday.
Left off the list was Hu Jintao, who is retiring as party chief after 10 years. A top general told reporters that Mr Hu is also relinquishing his sole remaining powerful post, as head of the military, a significant break from the past that would give Mr Xi leeway to establish his authority.
Leadership line-ups typically strike a balance between different interest groups in the 82 million-member party. None of new leaders owe their positions to Mr Xi, but to other political patrons. Decisions are made largely by consensus, forcing Mr Xi to bargain with his colleagues who have their own allegiances and power bases. Party elders, with Mr Hu being the newest, exert influence over major policies through their proteges, further constraining Mr Xi.
While China's leadership may have an image in the rest of the world as decisive and all-powerful, the reality is that decision-making tends to be a slow-going affair.
"It's a power game," said Zheng Yongnian, a China politics expert at the National University of Singapore. "The Standing Committee doesn't function well. They all have to agree, and there are too many checks on each other, so nothing gets done."
If not gridlock, the incremental, step-by-step policy-making of the past comes as China confronts slowing growth, a cavernous rich-poor gap and a clamour for change, in protests and on the internet, for better government and curbing corruption and the privileges of the politically connected elite.
"Even for a coherent leadership, those problems are challenging, not to mention a divided leadership, which hasn't consolidated its own power base," said Zhu Jiangnan of Hong Kong University.