The death of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin poses yet another challenge for current Chinese President Xi Jinping, providing a potential rallying point for people disillusioned by stringent "COVID zero" measures and a flagging economy.

Jiang’s death at the age of 96, which was announced by state media Wednesday, comes days after people took to the streets to challenge virus curbs in China’s most widespread protests in decades. While the demonstrations have since subsided, efforts to mourn the fallen leader who took steps to open the Asian nation to the world could provide a fresh impetus for gatherings that turn into a platform to criticize Xi.

"After the death of such a big figure in Chinese politics, some people may write articles, people may have gatherings, and this would be totally legal and allowed,” said Chen Gang, an assistant director and senior research fellow at National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute. "If such activities continue, people can make the contrast between the previous leader and the current situation. That may have a kind of backlash effect upon the current administration.”