The Panchen Lama is the second highest ranking figure in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama. The Panchen Lama bears part of the responsibility for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa.
The current Dalai Lama identified Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995. The People's Republic of China did not recognize this choice, naming Gyancain Norbu to the office of Panchen Lama instead. The whereabouts of the original Panchen Lama are currently unknown. Many observers believe that upon the death of the current Dalai Lama, China will direct the selection of a successor, thereby creating a schism and leadership vacuum in the Tibetan independence movement.